Oestrus 2

The Christians celebrate this springtime urgency as a triumph over death – Christ is risen; He is risen, indeed. This year, I celebrated twice: once with a sunrise service on a dramatic point over the ocean. Nearly 100 people made it this year, a thin line of cars wending down the peninsula, to gather companionably in the darkness, saying our yearly hellos quietly as we recognize each other under hats, scarves, and gloves – it is blowing 15 from the northwest, and it is still well below freezing. This is a service to the sun as it rises over Monhegan, in hopes that its growing strength will fill the land, melt the snow, ease the oil bill, and signal the start of our brief but glorious summer. Even though it is a Christian ceremony with a hymn and benediction, this feels like earth magic, and though I do not turn myself out of my warm bed every year, I feel no internal dissonance in attending this service.

Later, I go with my Mom to the small local church, where resurrection is in full force – people showing up (like me) who are never seen on any other Sunday. This fully Christian service – choir, old and new testament – grates my nerves – why should it?, it’s just a small town festival, even the same thoughtful and enthusiastic minister as the earlier one – but this triumph over death seems to mirror the human domination of nature. Our particular chosen religion allows us to escape death, so we are superior and therefor exempt from the cycle of death and rebirth that would require us to look at recycling, renewable resources and energy, the true cost of oil consumption and the rest of our wasteful practices.

Somehow this small church comes to represent – for me in this moment – all that is wrong and detached in our headlong rush toward planetary destruction and the denial of the truth of the body. I long for the delicacy of Ursula’s gender-bent planet, I welcome the ceremonies to the sun and connection with the natural world, but this organized balm for our sense of self-importance seems just wrong, and it is all I can do to sit it out in peace, stifling a protest would be totally inappropriate, self-indulgent, and completely misunderstood.

Of course, like all good stories, Christ’s resurrection can be interpreted in many ways. But any therapist or philosopher has to answer for himself the question: “Where did it all go wrong?” I have just returned from a non-Christian part of the world, but Asia is nonetheless infected with the Western itch for technology and domination of the natural world. I trace this tendency for domination 3.5 billion years back to the necessity for all living beings to eat and shit (and thus competition), 5 million years back to the advent of the bicameral cortex in humans that allowed the detachment necessary to separation (and thus sin), 70,000 years back to the Promethean taming of fire (and thus domination), and most recently 1600 years back to the interpretation of Easter as a license to flout natural law (the Tao) in our new-found divinity and victory over death.

I got news for the Christians: we’re all still dying, and we still don’t know what happens when we go. One person rolling away the stone (if it happened) does not mean that you have merited the same, even if you have accepted the baby Jesus as your personal saviour. The attitude that death has been vanquished is a very dangerous one, and should be handled with extreme care, lest we end up with leaders who count not the cost, and see themselves God-sent to vanquish sin (and maximize profit).

Oooops, too late!


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