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Reflections at Easter Meeting for Worship - nhpeacenik
Reflections at Easter Meeting for Worship
As I sat in Meeting for Worship this morning, I dropped a question into the pool of silence, "What is the significance of Easter?"

The first things that came to mind were some statements that I had just heard from a fundamentalist writer being interviewed on the radio that the only way to be saved in this world is through believing that Jesus is the only way to be saved. I rejected the statement at once... how can it matter more whether we hold a particular "article of faith" (profess a specific belief)  than how we live our lives?

The whole story of the torture, death, ascent to heaven and resurrection of Jesus is what we are supposed to focus on at Easter.

Some people think it teaches that anyone who stands up to the authorities of this world for the sake of truth will inevitably be martyred; in that case it has to imply that martyrs go to a reward outside this life: heaven or something like it, and that occasionally some of heaven's residents return to live on Earth to help those who still suffer here.

Others think it is the story of a single exceptional man who was the only son of God, who voluntarily undertook to make up for all the evil deeds committed in the history of the world by offering himself to God (his own father) as a sacrifice; those who believe this expect that personal martyrdom is now unnecessary because one special person has already been martyred on behalf of all of us. Subsets of this group include people who think that sins committed after Jesus' death were not included in Jesus' bargain, but that by begging for Jesus' help, modern people can be included among the elect; some of these believe that by asserting belief in a set of arbitrary propositions, people can join the elect. Many believers seem to say that the default destination of human beings who do not explicitly qualify to be added to the rolls of the saved is some version of eternal damnation after death: Hell.

I tend to adhere to a third interpretation. Jesus was a man who had made contact with an eternal world that interpenetrates our own and is available to those of us who inhabit this one. The perspective of this larger world allowed him to develop compassion for those who wandered in semi-blindness and semi-deafness. His teaching took place during his short span of years on Earth, and the Resurrection may have been added to the story for symbolic reasons, at a later time. To those who met him and those who would listen, Jesus taught a non-violent way of life in voluntary community. He advocated for an end to economic inequality and interpersonal violence, since these tactics are always self-defeating in the long run. He held out the possibility that all human beings could join him in universal consciousness, given the right time and circumstances, but that in the meantime, by following and extending his compassionate teachings, human beings could preserve society (and the planet) from self-destruction.

While sitting in the Silence, I was forcibly reminded of the 19th century book "Flatland" by Edwin Abbott. The book talks of a two-dimensional world populated by sentient geometric shapes. The least evolved shapes were the triangles, whose sharp points led them to "kill" other shapes, and the most evolved were circles, who had a near -infinite number of angles. One day a young polygon met what he thought was a circle, but unlike all the other shapes in Flatland, this shape could change its size and disappear at will. It explained that it was actually not a circle but a sphere, which existed in a three-dimensional world, and it led the young polygon to visit the solipsistic Lineland, where only one being existed, with no knowledge of the second dimension. The young polygon comprehended that there might be a set of beings interpenetrating its two dimensional world all the time, who understood easily the simple stories being acted out in Flatland and could offer wisdom not found on his (this was the 19th century, so of course he was male) plane.

I found myself extending the model: instead of a sphere, the three-dimensional being is a complex shape with many appendages (like fingers) of different shapes and sizes. she/he places fingers through Flatland, where slices of them take on limited consciousness and play a kind of board-game, controlled by the one three-dimensional being. Jesus (and Gautama, Hiawatha, Mohammed etc.) are fingers that somehow take on the consciousness of the entire three-dimensional being while still taking part in the game of Flatland.

Questions arise. Are there any shapes in this Flatland that are not slices of the three-dimensional being? If not, won't the game inevitably end when all the two-dimensional beings realize what they are a part of and "rise" into the grand unity of full consciousness? If not, are there golems among the Flatlanders who are innately limited to two-dimensional consciousness;  when the game is over, what becomes of them? Is the game of Flatland essential to the "mental health" of the three-dimensional being? If the game must end will he/she become "bored" and start another one? If the game of Flatland is played according to Jesus' rules, will it become too boring (like a Monopoly game where everyone cheats)? How do plants, animals, rocks, planets, stars,... fit into this model; is it too human-centered? I guess the model is only useful if it leads to further reflection.

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Current Location: Greenville NH
Current Music: The Trees Comunity "Psalm 42"

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