Sunday, March 23, 2008

Holding paradox 

This is possibly the first Easter Sunday for many a year on which I haven’t been to church. There didn’t seem a lot of point, somehow. How do you cope with the paradox which this day presents; the most significant date in the Christian calendar, indeed the event upon which the entire Christian faith is based? On the one hand, they - the congregation – will take the bread and the wine, symbols of an event so singular it divided time in two; an event which, if you accept it’s premise, is the most significant ever to befall the human race, and then afterwards they’ll chat over a cup of coffee about the terrible weather we’re having. If there’s any sense of mystery, of wonder, of uncomprehending gratitude then it’s well hidden. I could perhaps, with some difficulty, manage were it one or the other – a deeply spiritual experience or a pleasant social occasion – but how can it be both? And at the same time?

Or maybe I’m mistaken; maybe it’s not so hard after all to hold that paradox – isn’t that what I’m doing in every waking moment? Living a life of external trivia – cups of coffee, office banter, daily routine - whilst inwardly I try my best to avoid the questions that so persistently parade themselves through my mind. “Meaning of life” kind of questions; who am I, why am I here, is there a reason at all or am I just a chance collection of molecules, brought together for a brief spell only to disperse again into nothingness? Is there something else I ought to be doing? Someone else I ought to be being? Some place else I ought to be doing and being it? That sort of question; hardly original, but no less requiring of an answer for all that. Or if not an answer, then at the very least the understanding which accrues through the quest for an answer. Yet I undertake no such quests. Not any more. There are other questions too; less spiritual, more personal and immediate, yet still unvoiced, and unanswered.

It seems I’m an expert after all in holding paradox.

But the paradox is only held by keeping the two sides apart; the outer, physical everyday side and the inner spiritual one (for want of a better word). Or perhaps the paradox itself only exists because the two are held apart. But if they are to be joined anywhere, wouldn’t you expect that to be in a church? Yet the church, for the most part, seems complicit in this division. God may feature in hymns and prayers and sacraments and sermons, but in ordinary everyday conversation? Surely not.

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