Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter (really)

     Near midnight, driving home from the second Seder, it occurred to me that Sunday is Easter, that today's posting, below, letting some religious zealot hang himself with his sputtering intolerance, probably wasn't the nicest holiday treat for my Christian friends. 
     The timing is unfortunate, and believe me, isn't intentional. I was focusing on my own holiday, Passover, thus Easter, which doesn't sit in my consciousness much, snuck up on me. I've never celebrated it, but unlike Christmas, with its occasional tree trimming party or snatch of caroling, I've never even tangentially been around Easter celebrations, no slipping into a friend's family Easter dinner, no visit to church, no Easter parades. My mother, when we were very small, had pity on us, and bought some Paz egg dyes at Woolworth's, and we colored eggs, once, but it all seemed very clandestine and pointless, even to a child, and we never spoke of it again. Though I remember the blue and green and red eggs being quite pretty. 
      My only deep knowledge of Easter comes from having read Dante's The Divine Comedy, which takes place over Easter weekend, 1300. And I realize that's kind of a skewed portrayal of the Easter holiday. Not a lot of chocolate bunnies in that, however, and more lakes of fire and winged demons than are common this time of year. Besides, it's a little late in the evening to start writing about Dante. So I'll only point out two things about the work.
     First, despite its deservedly grim reputation, with souls suffering in hell, there are parts that are quite funny—my favorite when Dante deals with Pope Bonifice VIII, who condemned Dante to death in real life, exiling him from his beloved Florence and seizing his property. Dante obviously wanted to slur Bonifice—the University of Chicago's Dante scholar calls The Inferno "an infamy-making machine" in his new book Dante and the Limits of the Law—and forever tarnish his name.
    But Dante faced a creative challenge, a structural problem: Bonifice had not yet died in 1300, when the story takes place. Kinda hard to put him in hell in 1300 when everybody reading it knew he didn't die until 1303. A problem that Dante solved with a twist of breathtaking creativity: during his tour, his guide points to a smoldering pit and says, in essence, "And THIS is the hole where Bonifice will go when he gets here." 
    Genius.
    The other thing I want to point out is ... spoiler alert ... how The Inferno (the first of the three books of the Commedia —ends. Dante gets out of hell and "rivader la stelle"— He sees the stars. The last lines, in Robert Pinsky's beautiful translation, are: 

                                                                             I saw appear
                         Some of the beautiful things that heaven bears,
                         Where we came forth, and once more saw the stars.

    Each of the Divine Comedy's three books ends with a mention of the stars, which have been particularly beautiful this past week, and I noticed tonight, even in the light-polluted, orange black sky of Skokie, where we attended our second Seder.  So just as Passover is about escaping slavery, whatever that means to you, so Easter, to someone only vaguely familiar with it, seems about rebirth, about finding your way out of your hell, whatever that is, a spiritual resurrection, escaping the clutches of death, to where the sky is clear once more, where you can see the spangled perfection of heaven. Or some such thing. Anyway, Happy Easter.

15 comments:

  1. You probably know more about Easter than the majority of people whe are going to celebrate it. It really has become a feast of Spring. The religious significance forgotten. Like Christmas. It's more about buying new clothes and chocolate treats and a feast.

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  2. Well said, Paul and Mr. S. about what Easter has become. Mr. S. you are right to be speaking about your people's religion and we learned from some of your columns and postings as well.

    But I hope you will step into any church at Easter time, it won't bite. Glad you colored those eggs once. Even if you ever did it with your kids when younger, it could just be a fun thing.

    Just like I've bought my offspring those dreidel toys at Hanukkah, though we aren't Jewish.

    The Dante reference is appreciated along with how crooked the Cath. church was in Dante's time and later. As a Methodist, I appreciate that and love the Reformation , especially the Wesleyan version.

    Have a good Sunday.

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    1. P.S. I always wanted to talk to a rabbi just for interest, but worried I 'd get a door slammed in my face or dirty look in a synague like the lady who wanted to convert in that show SATC. (grin)

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    2. oops, make that synagogue

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    3. How about those crazy conserve. Christian Duggars? just brood mares the women are there

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  3. Another holy day for Christians has been secularized. I don't think it's wrong for non-Christians to celebrate the secular/commercial holidays of Xmas and Easter because there is nothing religious about them. Buying gifts, decorating a tree, or coloring eggs are not rituals of faith. They are things that people enjoy with no thought to their original meanings.Plus, the Christians hijacked the holidays from the pagans anyway.

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  4. Here's an idea...Let's all LIVE our faith instead of talking about it, or trying to convert others to it, or disrespecting or terrorizing others of a different team. And for those who identify as non-believers, leave them the hell alone. Just treat your fellow human beings as you would like to be treated yourself. Remember that directive? Such a difficult and complicated game plan. So few go this route. Someday...

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    1. What a bother on any type of religious holiday with all the family mess, more work to do esp. for ladies and any free time you have from work,taken up anyway.

      Good deal when we moved to the far west suburbs, no one wants to come out here after initial house visit and that's fine with me, quiet with immed. family only, less hassle.

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  5. Yeah, good luck with that.

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  6. Funny story, Neil about you guys dying eggs.

    Wonder what your dad thought, since you brought him up once about Mom asking him something.

    If it isn't too personal, were your parents from the Conservative Jewish branch?

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    1. No, my dad was a nuclear physicist. He didn't even care enough about religion to scoff at it.

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  7. thanks, interesting

    no wonder you seem to have an aptitude for math too when you do those puzzle guess games on here

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    1. Since you brought up about your father in law making part of the special meal sauce, perhaps he was of a more religious nature, presumably.

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    2. since you still follow the traditional family dinner /seder

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    3. I think that's mostly my wife's good influence.

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