Easter Sunday always brings back pleasant memories though always tinged with sadness for so often my dear momma had to work. And then, in retrospect, there was the “hell fire and damnation” emphasis of the sermon and the obsessive, self-indulgent emphasis of the passion of Christ….recently vividly illustrated in the Mel Gibson movie. Oh, I believe in the “death, burial, and resurrection of Christ” but I’m now mature enough to venture into the work of hermeneutics and interpret it for myself. I now see the obsessive emphasis of Jesus’ suffering on the cross….because of our complicit presence in the “eating of the apple”…does not have to be taken literally and in fact, should not be. I would never minimize the suffering of Jesus as he was certainly, like “moi”, a human being (at least) and torture hurt. I do not like pain and would not have the courage to endure what he did when, according to American hymnology, “He could have called ten thousand angels, to destroy the world, and set him free.” Jesus knew that life involved pain and offered to us “the way of Cross” in which, per W. H. Auden, we must climb the rugged cross of the moment and let our illusions die.”
But, while Jesus was being tortured and humiliated on the cross, he uttered the incredible words, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” My “guru”, Richard Rohr, in recent months explained that Jesus was saying, “Hey, they are not conscious. They do not know what they are doing. Forgive them.” Now I have been mistreated, misunderstood, and have “suffered” to some degree in my life. But my “sufferings” were always of the neurotic variety but I have yet to find the courage to offer the words to oblivion, “Father forgive them. For they know not what they did.” Why not? I certainly realize and understand that “they” were conscious and didn’t know what they were doing and their “mistreatment” of “moi” was so minimal, weighing so heavily on me only because I was a “highly sensitive person”, meaning
I was “thin-skinned” and vulnerable. So, why don’t I let the memories of “the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to” just fade into oblivion? Well, I think that Shakespeare had the answer to his own question, suggesting that we would “prefer to cling to our present ills than fly to others that we know not of.” In other words, our present misery…or “discomfort”…is preferable than letting it go and deigning to encounter the mystery of life part of which will be “pain” of some sorts.
Twenty years ago a psychiatrist, Scott Peck, offered incredible wisdom in his book, “The Road Less Traveled.” In the opening chapter of that book he noted, “Neureosis is a substitute for legitimate suffering.” Neurosis is a maladaptive response to the difficulties of life, some of which are very intense.. Likewise, psychosis…or worse…is an even less adaptive to these same circumstances or perhaps even trauma. Now psychotics are not really capable of forgiving their malefactors. But neurotics are very capable. So, why not? Why do they cling to their pain? Why do “I” cling to my pain? Well, I have to follow my own reasoning and admit that I just don’t have the courage to abandon the neurotic structure that has comforted me all these years and in the primordial Absence that follows, dare to make a choice that can be
“Redemptive”, not just for “moi” but for those that are nearest and dearest to me. In other words, do I dare to be “real” or, better yet, “Real.” As T.S. Eliot asked “Do I dare disturb the universe?” It comes down to “getting over ourselves” which for some of us is industrial strength neurosis. Do we dare to escape the safe cacoon of our anguish and engage the rest of the world?
Nah, nah! Personally, I prefer my lofty thoughts and the smug satisfaction that I am in control. But then I, again today, avoid the redemptive power of the Resurrection which is always available in any spiritual tradition though expressed in different imagery.