Sunday, March 31, 2013

Doing Something

The Christians are holding their Easter today: a red sun is climbing the wall. When I went out for a walk, this morning, the stars were still bright, and Vega was overhead, burning blue. Just above the trees, to the South, a lopsided moon was limping home.

I turned aside, went to the lichen-splashed rock, and rested my cheek against it. A bird or two were already singing in the dark, singing to the stars. I wished a happy Easter to my friends who celebrate it, groping, as I usually do on holidays, for the happiness I know so many of my friends find in them. Not for the happiness, you understand; even I am not so silly as that. But for an understanding of the happiness. I cannot even imagine a world so changed that holidays would make me happy.

Yet I am a happy man, as I reckon things. Ridiculously fortunate, and aware of my good fortune. I take pleasure in so many other things, which most people seem to pass by as worthless. The birdsong and the stars, for example. Touching people with attention. Ordinary food. Most people seem to be getting so little pleasure out of ordinary life: they're always anxious to escape it, to go do something special. I don't want to do anything special. What I want is a calm and stillness, where the seeds of light might germinate.

Before a holiday, people will ask, “Are you doing something?” – as if I wasn't, ordinarily, doing something. But it would be ill-mannered to say, “yes, I am going out to look at the stars in the morning, and making coffee.” Instead I say, “No, nothing special, nothing planned. How about you?”

Nothing seems stranger to me – nothing alienates me more – than the combination of religious holy days with social feast days. If Easter were my holiday, my response would be to go off alone, go to the mountains, watch the sunrise, pray to the risen son. It would not be to hold a noisy party. I can't even begin to understand how these things knit together in most people's consciousness. But clearly I'm the odd man out. It must make sense to them, or they wouldn't do it.


Zhoen said...

Not so odd.

I think of the "what are you doing for (Holiday)?" question to be along the lines of "How are you?" The answer is, 'fine.' Or for the holiday "Oh, just quiet at home."

I also make origami bunnies. Just glad not to be spending the whole week on a hard pew.

Elisa said...

I get annoyed at the 'special' word in questions too. I try not to literally tilt my head at a person speaking such a thing to me. I normally politely say, "I find it degrading that my normal would not be enough for me to speak of and that by your wish for only special that you erase me."

Sometimes they will grin, if they know me at all, and try again...
I save them then, and I say I am standing here speaking with you and next, I will be noticing the next thing, and perhaps deciding how long to attend it.

It can be simpler to just go out to that stone.

I wonder that Pentecost isn't a 'feast' day or something else instead. I imagine that marketers couldn't find a way to advertise and attach a brand-like feeling and obligation to keep up. (brand-like is the wrong word but at the moment I haven't access to the correct one in memory)

Phil Plasma said...

I understand the celebration as a means to acknowledge the miracle of resurrection and of His forgiveness of our sins; but I don't get the bunny or the chocolate.

Mike McLaren said...

You're not the odd man out on this one. I'm with you here, which makes two... so you're even.

Death Zen said...

Actually, only some of the Christians were "holding" their Easter yesterday, Dale. A roughly estimated 225-300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide won't be celebrating Easter until May 5. And the reason that the faithful joyously celebrate the resurrection of Jesus by feasting on Easter is because they've been observing strict Lenten diets for several weeks: no meat, no fish, no eggs, no dairy, no wine, no oil, and curtailed frequency and portions of all meals. (The same applies to lesser feast days on the liturgical calendar: they, too, mark the end of a dietary fast.) Despite the fact that many Christians worldwide no longer fast during Lent or otherwise, this is the rationale behind all feast days.

Dale said...

Thanks, Death Zen! Yes, that makes it make sense. (And thanks for the correction about Orthodox Easter!) And goes to point up the dangers of pontificating about other people's religious lives: if you're not doing it, you probably don't understand what it's about. (I wasn't raised Christian, so I see it from the outside, mostly.)

Death Zen said...

You're most welcome, Dale. I wasn't raised Christian, either — and many decades later, I'm still contentedly religionless — but I do enjoy a feast now and again. :)

Nimble said...

I think this is a perfectly good way to celebrate: "yes, I am going out to look at the stars in the morning, and making coffee." But then I like the occasional holiday bustle too.