Friday, April 18, 2014
In the Philippines, among other places, men had themselves literally nailed to literal crosses today in a Mel-Gibson-esque assertion of sympathy for Jesus, who was likewise said to have been crucified. (Notably, the nails were driven through the palms of the hands, whereas in historic reality, as I understand it, nails were driven between the radius and the ulna of the lower arm to assure that the body would not fall from its perch.)
Christian institutions have deplored the practice of sympathy crucifixions, but it's hard not to think that the impetus for a personal agony does not find its source within the Christianity embodied by those institutions: If you aren't agonizing, how good a Christian could you possibly hope to be?
Nor do I intend to pick on Christians. It just happens to be one of the days they consider remarkable.
To my mind, every spiritual persuasion has a touch of the same spirit: If you aren't suffering, you aren't doing it right; if you aren't dusty and destitute, wracked by poverty and pain, grimacing in the face of life's slings and arrows ... well, you're just playing at things. And it's a short step from that impetus to the elevation of deprivation and dismay ... and self-flagellation, whether mental or physical, takes on a sainted glow. Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" made $580-plus million, so there must have been some agreement about the suffering-is-saintly outlook.
To my mind, serious spiritual endeavor really can be pretty hard and for this reason is in no need of add-on's. There is no need to pierce the flesh or self-flagellate or find a dank cave high in the Himalayas or declare yourself unworthy when, "your life is so difficult that it has never been tried before."
No more does serious spiritual effort require smarmy add-on's ... the everything's-OK-in-the-realm-of-the-lord/absolute stuff.
Sometimes serious spiritual endeavor is as compassionate and cuddly as a warm kitten and sometimes it's as hissing and pissy as a wet cat. That's just the nature of a serious practice: It needs no help from add-on enemies or add-on friends.
Maybe it all boils down to: Any nitwit can have a transcendent experience; it takes a wise (wo)man to correct that mistake.
Here's hoping it's a good Friday for one and all.