“. . . the shortest distance between a human being and truth is a story.'” —Anthony De Mello
Perhaps there’s a simple explanation for our society’s current fascination with zombies: We are living with them right now. Something to think about anyway, according to the moderator of the United Church of Canada, Rt. Rev. Jordan Cantwell.
At our Easter service on Sunday, the minister at my church brought to our attention a podcast interview with our moderator. During an Illuminate Faith interview, Cantwell was asked by a participant at a youth forum what she would bring to a zombie apocalypse.
I can’t imagine she could have been prepared for a question like that, so I give her kudos for providing the best spontaneous answer to an unexpected question I think I’ve ever heard.
“I think we’re in a zombie apocalypse,” she said.
She described zombies as beings who appear alive but who are kind of dead. The “walking dead” can be . . “anything that sucks the hope and the life out of us . . .”
Cantwell suggests we can find walking deadness in ourselves and on the streets.
I’ve seen it in myself. Have you? I can think of a few people who live almost exclusively in walking deadness. Can you?
The zombies that surround us “drag us into the illusion that life is miserable, that the world is falling apart . . .” and they “suck others into their living deadness.”
And what does Cantwell bring to the apocalypse? Stories.
Zombies, she says, “believe in the power of death as stronger than the power of life and of love,” and stories refute that belief. Stories of compassion and faith feed energy and life back into ourselves and our streets.
Cantwell made her observations in the context of our Christian Easter—a story that involves missing corpses and life after death—but I think they apply to all people in all places at all times. Stories of compassion and faith don’t eliminate the reality of death for all people in all places at all times, but they do feed energy and life back into those people.
“. . . even when death does its worst, God’s got another chapter.” —Rt. Rev. Jordan Cantwell
Listen to the full Illuminate Faith podcast here: http://illumin8faith.com/files/archive-april-2017.html
“Day two, or whatever that middle space is for your own process, is when you’re ‘in the dark’—the door has closed behind you. You’re too far in to turn around and not close enough to the end to see the light.” —Brené Brown in Rising Strong
Brené Brown, author of Rising Strong, leads and participates in three-day workshops that encourage people to dare greatly and accept vulnerability. On Day One, people arrive bright with curiosity and anticipation. Day One is easy. But not Day Two. Day Two is hard. That is when participants really need to delve into the “unavoidable uncertainty, vulnerability, and discomfort of the creative process.”
No matter where people come from, or how much money they make, or what level of experience they have, everyone finds Day Two of the workshops challenging. Everyone experiences the doubt and discomfort that make up the middle space. Sometimes people want to give up and flee. They want to skip all the difficulties but yet, somehow, miraculously arrive at a happy ending.
But you can’t skip Day Two.
“The middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens.”
Day Two takes many metaphorical forms. It’s the time of not knowing in between times of knowing. It can be the journey between the bright curiosity and anticipation at the outset of a project and the satisfaction of its completion, as in Brown’s workshops. It can also be the painful struggle between tragedy and triumph.
Day Two lives in the space after death or divorce and before life re-created in a new way. We find Day Two in the scorching pain of labour, after the first twing of contraction and before the birth of a child. Writers know Day Two well. Our Day Two is the long, doubt-filled period between Idea and Book.
There is a big Day Two coming up this weekend for those who celebrate Easter. Those who don’t celebrate Easter can look to it as an example too.
The Saturday that follows Good Friday, might look like an empty day, but it’s an important day to contemplate, because it’s the part of the story that we most often need to bring to mind. It represents all the difficult times we face when we don’t yet know about the joy to come. In Jesus’ time, on the Saturday following his death people only knew grief. They thought he’d be lost to history forever. They couldn’t have imagined that thousands of years later we’d still be talking about the guy.
During our times in between when we can’t see the happy ending—whether those times come after a divorce, or while working on a school project, or while waiting to hear if we got a job—Day Two reminds us that wonderful things beyond our wildest imaginings could be around the corner.
The time in between is a messy time of grief, or doubt, or confusion, or anger. On Day Two we do all the work without knowing where it’s going. It’s not fun, but you can’t skip it either. It’s where the magic happens.
Day Two sustains us and reminds us to keep a flicker of hope alive.
On Sunday, many of us munched hot cross buns or searched for chocolate eggs while we pondered the mysteries of the day. Easter is a time for minds open to new possibilities. On the same day, scientists at CERN restarted the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and sent protons hurtling both directions around 27 kilometer-long parallel pipes while they pondered the mysteries of the day. Such an event is a time for minds open to new possibilities.
Physicists wait with impatient attentiveness to see what happens when the particles collide. They hope the LHC provides experimental evidence to support theories to explain some of our universe’s unknowns and puzzles. The Standard Model of particle physics—“the current best description there is of the subatomic world”— explains only about 5% of the universe.
People ponder the complexities of Easter with impatient attentiveness. We must rely on contradictory Bible stories as our best evidence, and they are unscientific and insufficient, at best. Do they explain even 5% of what Easter is all about?
I enjoy the association between the LHC and Easter. For minds open to new possibilities, they are hail fellows well-met.
The Standard Model
The Standard Model explains how the basic building blocks of matter interact, governed by four fundamental forces
If you describe yourself as “spiritual but not religious” you might not be doing yourself any favours.
According to a study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, people who attend a religious service at least one a month have a lower risk of depression. People who simply identified as spiritual but didn’t participate in the life of a faith community didn’t enjoy the same benefits.
The study suggests, and I agree, that regular deep connection with people in a way that goes beyond the surface social interactions of, say, a book club or a spin class keeps our spirits up. Many people say they can just as easily feed their spirit during a a walk in the woods, or while painting, or while singing or dancing, and this is true. What you don’t find during those same activities is challenge and growth, and without challenge and growth the spirit connection quickly grows tenuous, and a tenuous spirit connection leaves plenty of room for the dark stuff to creep in.
The Easter story is a challenging one for lots of people. I get that. Many people struggle with the concept of resurrection, so it’s a difficult time to suggest to the “spiritual but not religious” crowd that participation in a faith community might be a good idea. But faith communities need people like that to challenge them and to help them grow. They need people who seek spirit but who choke on the many things that religious groups do wrong to walk in the door and say, “You know what? I like this, this and this, but this, no that’s just not acceptable.”
That way the relationship becomes reciprocal. Faith communities take on the challenge and grow, and the spiritual find the community they need to maintain and grow a strong spiritual connection. If that happens, maybe someday all faith groups will treat women as equals. If that happens, maybe someday all faith groups will honour all love-based marriages. If that happens, maybe someday all faith groups will value questions and doubts as seeds of growth.
In fact, maybe the best time to start might be Easter weekend, in memory of a man who was an outstanding example of a religious doubter and questioner.
Jesus dramatically turned the tables on the unacceptable religious practices of his day. Maybe we can, too.
Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. http://publications.cpa-apc.org/media.php?mid=1499
One of the most memorable Easter sermons I ever heard preached had nothing with Good Friday and the complexities of who killed Jesus and why. It didn’t mention the empty tomb or celebrate the renewed presence of Jesus on Easter morning. It didn’t really have much to do with Jesus at all. It was about Easter Saturday and what the people did in the time in between.
Really, it was about us, and what we do with the overlooked but, oh, so important time in between tragedy and triumph.
Easter Saturday: the metaphorical day after loss. The day when the pain is raw and fresh, and we don’t know yet about the joy to come. During the time in between we can’t see joy. We can’t see how it will take form in our lives. We look to the future and see more of the same.
The preacher of this sermon urged us to remember the Easter story during difficult times. When we survive the initial shock and turmoil and find ourselves in the desert of grief that follows, we can keep the flicker of hope alive.
Be watchful. Look for it. Joy will come with the dawn some Easter morning.
Is there a time of year when our rational mind battles more with our intuition than at Easter? The Easter stories often make people turn away from faith. Their rational minds can’t accept something they see as supernatural mumbo-jumbo, so they toss out the whole enterprise. They don’t even give sacred intuition a chance.
So many things to puzzle through. An empty grave. Jesus appearing to people after he died. How, on earth, can we rationally deal with it all? We can’t, so I guess we have to float above the earth a little and open the sacred gift of our intuition.
The moderator of the United Church of Canada, Rev. Gary Paterson, addresses this in his Easter message. He refers to people in the Easter story who meet Jesus in some way after he has died, but they don’t recognize him. Mary thinks he’s a gardener, and other men spend an entire afternoon in conversation with him, but they see him as an ordinary Joe.
It’s a recurring theme, this unrecognized Jesus. Only later, when these people share sacred moments with him, do they see things differently.
Rev. Paterson suggests that perhaps we can choose to use “resurrection glasses” to see the ordinary events, and all those ordinary people, in our lives through the lens of sacred intuition gifts. Without them, we see gardeners and ordinary Joes; with them, we see the sacred in everyone.
The resurrection glasses are readily available to us, we just have to choose to put them on. Just for fun, try putting on those resurrection glasses this Easter, and see what gifts your sacred intuition brings to you.