I find the story of Jesus Christ compelling, but since the Greek Orthodox Church insists on telling it in Koine, a lingo I (and most Greek speakers) can’t understand, I either have to attend churches and services that speak languages I speak, or resort to my own devices.
For a while now I have been resorting to my own devices, not least of all are my TV and laptop. I watch inspiring movies and TV series, such as Jesus Of Nazareth and Lord Of The Rings. I listen to life-affirming music such as Queen’s Live Aid Concert. The past couple of years I have been reading books. In 2015 I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy, a story on the nature of survival in a post-apocalyptic world as experienced by a destitute father and his young son. Plenty of awesome material in there, and I use the word intently — awe-some! — starting with the spare but potent language, the ingenious storytelling, the transporting premise and its grand themes of devotion, morality, tenacity, faith, and, not least of all, life in the wake of death and destruction.
Take this quote, for example:
‘He knew that the child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke.’
‘Keep a little fire burning; however small, however hidden.’
So good, I read it again in the Easter holidays of 2016.
But not this year. This year I went with something different: two books dealing with life after complete and utter devastation.
One is Altered States by Paddy Chayefsky — the story of a scientist in search of the Self, his obsession to attain his goal and his willingness to break all the barriers to reach his objective. The price he pays. The damage he causes to those he cares for. The lessons he learns in the process. The way life goes on even after everything seems lost, and the willingness to become the change one wants to bring to the world. To become the change. To walk the walk and talk like a visionary, a person intent on making things happen.
‘I think that true self, that original self, that first self is a real, mensurate, quantifiable thing, tangible and incarnate.’
The second book is Falling Man by Don DeLillo. It deals with life after 9/11, characters in NYC that come together in the wake of tragedy, to each their own, in the process of shared or commingled identities, in the wake of a trauma both debilitating and formative, as crushing as it is revealing, instructive, redemptive, restorative.
‘She wanted this only, to snuff out the pulse of the shaky faith she’d held for much of her life.’
‘She was taking a round of medications, a mystical wheel, the ritualistic design of the hours and days in tablets and capsules, in colors, shapes and numbers.’
‘These are the days after. Everything now is measured by after.’
Indeed they are, at least during the days of Easter; Before and After. The end, and the new beginning that follows from it, be it a restoration, a resurrection, a resurgence, a comeback, or just a lesson learned. After the fact and before the next storm. Anticipating the coming crisis, for which one needs to be prepared. An instruction, a trial run for even greater challenges. Something to help us deal with what lies in store, reminding us that life goes on even when we can’t, and that we go on even when life collapses. Either way, something endures, something immortal.
I read these books and feel thoroughly and spiritually uplifted because I understand their message. Its authors and editors were respectful and smart enough to address their audiences directly, in ways we could understand. Their stories were written in a language I got. They became tools for spiritual and mental improvement, encouraging contemplation, insight, faith in one’s person, in one’s inner strength, and in the power of other people, in the spirit that animates life, in forces larger than life.
The Road; Altered States; Falling Man — three extraordinary tales on the power of life over death, and the ability to deal with disaster.
An Extraordinary Triangles exercise of breakthrough proportions.
From the bays of Pearl Coast,
Fish a ton of oysters, strike a shiny pearl.