Friday, May 4, 2007

Happy Easter

Easter is about creativity and developing problem solving skills and maybe it's a little bit about fresh starts, near as I can surmise.

Bueche's Shop-Rite had the most colorful Easter basket display. The display created much longing in my sugar-grubbing soul. My parents never took me to church so I'd never heard of Jesus and imagined God to be a nice man in a brown suit with a matching derby hat. The Easter Bunny, however, I knew intimately.

My mother used to say He would not set foot in an unkept house, so we helped her tidy up and clean things. We then went to bed looking forward to the egg hunt and lots of sugar. Organized religion is not the only way to control the masses.

After I expressed joy and longing while passing the Bueche's (beekeez) Easter basket display, my father said (and this is one of his real life-changing gems), "Show me a kid who believes in the Easter Bunny and I'll show you a dumb kid."

This must have been in 1967 or 1968. I must have been five or six years old when I learned how dumb I am, which is cool, because most people never figure it out. Color me precocious.

My father expected us to push the creative limits of egg dying. This was in the day of Paas, the dye tablets you mixed with hot water and vinegar; none of the new-fangled glittery dying kits had been invented yet. If we wanted a swirly psychedelic egg, we had to go to some trouble, and I did, because I did not want to disappoint the Bunny with boring, monochramatic, pastel eggs.

As the years went by the Easter Bunny let it be known that we were expected to demonstrate our growing intelligence. If we looked for an egg in an easy spot we would find a note in perfect Easter Bunnyish printing (black ink, white paper): You're going to have to try harder than that, or If your name isn't Lydia, leave this egg alone. Beside the note would be a small pile of Bunny turds (raisins).

With a bit of humor, through the Easter Bunny, my dad's message was: try harder because you can and because it's fun. My dad was the best Easter Bunny. And he knew it.

In addition to sugar, most human beings seem to crave guidance, comfort, and relief from guilt. Maybe that's where the whole god thing comes from and therefore the whole reason we celebrate Easter. Curiously, the kids in my family were somehow taught some of the ways of Jesus, without Jesus's name ever coming up. Do unto others was the Big One. If you could grasp doing unto others, you were half way there. Wherever there was. Is. Will be.

We had to answer to our own consciences. The most dreaded form of discipline, second only to being called stupid, was a very terse, "Go to your room and think about that." We were never taught that we would be punished for our sins or that anyone died to make up for our sinful ways, because there was no sin. There were just things that needed to be thought about. Learning from a mistake and moving on not to repeat it was the way to relieve guilt.

Two of our beliefs definitely came from Dad's navy training, teamwork being the best example. If one sibling messed up, we all paid, so there was preventative teamwork (talking a sib out of something stupid) and damage-control teamwork (helping to hide the evidence to avoid being sent to our rooms to think about something). Another navy-founded teaching was you snooze you lose. It wasn't until sometime during the last year that I ever felt comfortable showing up late for anything.

A lot of the stuff we were supposed to learn came from my grandfather:

when you point fingers in blame, there are three pointing back at you;
be proud of who you are and do not shame the family name;
stand up straight, shoulders back, head held high, make eye contact, and offer a firm handshake;
do not lie, ever;
do not throw like a girl (that one pissed me off, so I insist on throwing like a girl);
and some other stuff that will come to me at three in the morning.

Benjamin Franklin was probably influential as well: a borrower nor a lender be; waste not want not. I never borrow from family or friends, and if anyone borrows from me they pretty much can assume I'm prepared not to be paid back. I have a disgusting tendency to eat off of other people's plates while I'm doing the dinner dishes.

Deleterious side effects like punctuality neurosis and dirty dinner plate pillaging aside, I have to say, it's worked out okay having been raised by people who realized there's just no knowing what happens after death and therefore concerned themselves with training us to learn how to get along right now rather than to indulge any worries about a heaven or hell that might come later. If they ever felt the anxiety of the incontrovertible, unavoidable end of life, they never spoke of it; they were much too busy.

Coyote writes, "Let's face it: all evidence points to the extinction of consciousness upon our death. Rather, there is no evidence whatsoever to support its continuance, so how could we possibly believe (other than out of desperation) that we do live on in some way?"

My response: Our existence here at all seems so improbable to me, and our consciousness seems so altogether baffling and unexplainable, yet here we are and we seem to be conscious of our hereness. What would be so surprising, therefore, about a continuation of consciousness, in whatever form? It's not a matter of desperation to allow for the possibility of neverending consciousness. However, to oppress and murder people based on one's fervent belief in neverending consciousness within all of the dogma surrounding that belief is desperation in its most abominable form. We hate that; it bugs us.

For me, the world is pregnant with meaning -- whatever meaning I bring to whatever event I notice in order to fill whatever need I have. When I hear the loon call, especially when the loon ought to be quiet, when I see a great blue heron in an unusual place, and especially when I see specialty rainbows -- doubles, triples, horizon-to-horizon, circling the moon -- it means to me that I need to pay attention to something, that I'm on the cusp of an opportunity to learn something big. I assign that meaning because birds and rainbows are things I associate with my dad, and what he seemed to need was for me to be smart.

Meaning, like belief, is the contrivance of human personality. Their being contrivances does not invalidate them. Either belief does something for you or it doesn't. Either you find meaning useful or you don't.

Belief for me shifts with the wind.

4 comments:

alan said...

Zilla, you were missed!

alan

fineartist said...

Who knew?

xx, Lori

Writer Mom said...

Are you back?

Is this really you?

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