Easter Sunday, you say? I hadn't noticed anything different about the day. The Sun shines this morning, to be sure. In New England that is a rare thing this time of year. But otherwise this day, this Sunday, is no different than any other. A late breakfast over the newspaper with my wife, and then into the office for a day of catch up before another week of warfare in the courts.
But He is risen, you say? Again, I've noticed no such thing, although I concede that reports of his resurrection have echoed for millenia. I cannot account for this. And neither do I have a rational account of why I find the historical Jesus to be of interest.
First, some fundamentals. I do not pray. I attend no church. I do not believe in a life to come -- my hands are full juggling what this one deals. I am a trial lawyer, and even if my own life were not chaotic enough, my clients come to me in pieces demanding resurrections I am expected to produce. My own death seems unavoidable in an unthinkable sort of way: I am inclinded to view it as mere annihilation, a thought that titillates and terrifies in much the same way as do sexual reveries.
So why this fascination with Jesus? God knows, I say with a chuckle. Believers of a sort take that statement literally. For me it is a nod toward the ineffable. Unknowing is an amibguous sort of place, both comforting and not depending on the imperative of the moment.
So what of Jesus? He announced that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. When I contrast the Gospel accounts of Jesus' public teaching with Plato's Socratic dialogues I am at once struck by how Jesus beckons whereas Socrates pushes. Both decenter the listener, Socrates in the form of a challenge, but Jesus in the form of a kiss. I so much more prefer the lover to the debater.
But I do not believe Jesus rose from the dead. And that, I suppose, distinguishes me from the millions walking the Earth who profess such a belief, and from the hundreds of millions now dead who have believed this for centuries. It is not that such a thing strikes me as impossible. The world is a marvel. When I consider the debates stirred by creationists, I am at once distressed: The origin of things is opaque. But life's arising by chance strikes me as no more improbable than God taking the form of a man, dying and rising from the dead. Both are mind-numbing sorts of possibilities far removed from my quotidian concerns.
William James once spoke of the cash value of an idea. I confess to a heartless pragmatism. Seemingly by chance I find myself in a world and compelled to give an account of it. The account I give must serve.
Reports of Jesus suggest that he found a way amid the tears in time to experience and express something like peace. It was a provocative peace that challenged the orthodoxy and empire of his time and it very well led to his crucifixion. He was the mustard seed that died and then blossomed into something unthinkable. Two millenia after his death some still struggle to hear his voice.
I expect no audible sign, no visible signal. Whether he rose from the dead or not seems beside the point. In my time, fleeting though it is, I am tempted to hope for a kingdom of stillness and peace, a vision of things sublime amid all that rushes, pulls and tears at each day.
"The basic thing," Jacques Lacan once said about psychoanalysis, "is that people finally realize they've been talking nonsense at full volume for years." Is that the point of the kingdom? That amid the nonsense of our days there is something more real, more centering, and near at hand for those with ears to hear, and eyes to see?
Happy Easter to one and all. I still don't get it; perhaps there really is nothing to get, other than the hope of a silent lover's secret kiss.