Image by PCP.Senthil Kumar
Part Two: Resurrection
“Having it all” does not lead to happiness. This is the start of the Easter message. (There is a very funny website about this – satirising our consumer culture; and especially the desire to fix everything with a pill – called Havidol (avafynetyme HCl) – when more is not enough. Definitely recommended.)
Satisfying our greed will not lead to happiness. Firstly it is unlikely to be satisfied (the wealthy aren’t noticeably less greedy than the poor). And secondly it demands the severing of our connection to others to gain this satisfaction: greed bring death not life.
This is not the end of the easter message. New life comes when we give up our demanding and self-centred egotism. It is very likely we have all experienced this in many little ways. The person who is not waiting to have their say but is willing to listen deeply, the person who spontaneously helps us when we drop an armful or parcels, people who are happy to lend a hand with little things; all of them bring us a feeling of life.
In modern terms we could say that health is a kind of self-forgetfulness. The healthy person has the energy to engage with those around them, to be fascinated with what is going on – not just finding what is in it for them. Compared to this the person who cares only for themselves and their goals are sick – and they usually feel upleasant to be around (though some learn to fake it well – they have learnt that playing nice gets them further: you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.)
Jesus offers a bargain to his followers: now, a hundred times what they have given up for him; and in the age to come, eternal life. This is commonly referred to as ‘a no-brainer’. In the Jewish-Christian scriptures austerity is never the ideal. Jesus, when teaching his followers to pray instructs them to ask for enough to live on (give us this day our daily bread), and that they will be spared hard times (deliver us from evil).
The easter message is that the end of our greedy egotism is not stoicism but joy.
The ending of our greed leads to the realising of our true nature. This is a radical critique of our consumerist society. Having stuff doesn’t bring us closer to our true nature at all. But neither is stuff unnecessary – good food and beautiful things are delightful, true friends are cause for joy. Being hostile to stuff is just a more subtle attempt at self-sufficiency.
And our individuality has it’s part in our new life. When Jesus rose from the dead he bore the marks of the crucifixion. He was not a generalised force or unrecognisable – the new life is related to the old. When we give up our egotism our individuality is not diminished – it shines, it is irradiated by the pure light of compassion.
My understanding of the easter message is that as we give up our self-centred pre-occupation and greed we find who we truly are. Through death to self we come to a compassionate life filled with joy.