The Nightmare Before Easter
Even though I am Jewish, my wife isn’t. Truthfully, I take a very liberal and flexible view of my religious faith. Though it is important to me, I do not consider that adherence to all dogmas of any one particular faith is representative of any one version of “spiritual correctness.” With that said, two years ago my wife took our son, who was three-years-old at the time, to a local City-sponsored Easter egg hunt hosted on the Saturday before Easter. Unfortunately, due to the nature of police work, I had to work that day and didn’t get to go with her. However, the story she would tell me later of her experience at the event was a sad and disturbing image of something that was representative of anything, but the spirit of Easter.
The egg hunt that morning was hosted in a large public city park. The area we live in is a very active community, and consistent with most city functions, a large number of people had shown up, baskets in hand eager for the day’s festivities. When the time came for the big egg hunt, what my wife would describe would be anything but festive. Rather, it was a portrait of chaotic-gluttony, mixed with competitive greed. She said, from the moment the announcement was made for the hunt to begin, it wasn’t children who innocently ran to find colorful plastic eggs. Rather, it was a stampede of adults running through the open park. Children were clinging to parent’s hands, trying their best to keep up, as their caregivers dragged them to any area which may contain a pastel colored egg treasure.
The scene wasn’t symbolic of youthful enhancement and the innocent belief that a mythical giant rabbit had secretly hidden tiny treasures. No, this wasn’t anything representative of joyful magic. The thrill of the hunt was merely an inconvenience for a competitive sport. A game that was fueled by an instilled belief that winning came at having more than the other person. My wife described scenes of parents, physical shoving and pushing each other, or even children out of the way, to gain some advantage in the volume of the egg-shaped bounty they could collect. My wife told me she stared, mortified at the scene she was watching unfold.
Meanwhile, my son seemed to be none the wiser to the bloodthirsty tone of the “celebration.” In fact, when my wife described my son’s behavior, I felt the bittersweet emotion of pride in my child, and yet a similar sense of veracity that had motivated the rowdy adults that day. My wife told me how my son was ecstatic at the idea of hunting for eggs, and even after she was well aware that the fields of ovum delights had been picked over, he still would eagerly say, “Mommy, let’s check over here for some eggs.” With the tone, that only a mother can muster, which is equal parts sadness and anger, she told me about our son’s delighted face as he examined the two or three eggs in his basket he was able to gather before the horde of Easter marauders had discovered them.
For my wife, it was heartfelt sadness looking at our son sitting in the grass that day as he inspected his handful of eggs. Meanwhile, with woven straw baskets overflowing, adults walked by congratulating their children on “their” successful gathering. Then, of course, there were the parents who seemed displeased that their child had not been willing to spear tackle other kids to make sure they gained their Marie Antoinette’s share of Easter prizes.
It was at this moment when my wife was retelling me the story that I realized shortly she would be headed out to Target. Assuredly, by tomorrow our child would be hunting an inordinate amount of eggs in our backyard. He’d probably begin his egg hunting expedition in the morning, and only in the early afternoon, when exhaustion had set in, would his quest be suspended. We’d be finding plastic eggs in our backyard for months to come. Hell hath no fury like a mother whose son has been scorned.
At the end of the day, in light of our glumness over the fact that our son had got muscled out of the Easter egg hunting extravaganza, the one person, we both, needed to pay attention too, was actually our son. He wasn’t upset at his three eggs. In fact, the quantity of eggs he had was irrelevant. Rather, it was the experience that he enjoyed. Ultimately, my wife and I took a lot of pride in the fact, that our son was happy just hunting for eggs, and not in the least concerned with how many he found. In truth, had any of the adults that day let their kids be kids, they all would have seen that value in life is not measured by volume of “stuff.” Rather, the value in life is measured by volume in experience.
On that day before Easter, two years ago, what the adults all failed to find while they were out searching was the most important thing they had lost. The joy of innocence and happiness of experience that comes from the emotional allure of believing in the surreal. It comes, not from every finding anything; rather it comes from the belief that something must be found. The adults failed to understand this, not because they were some particular band of depraved plunderers. No. In truth, they represented the ideal that many of us live by, which is the happiness comes from having more. The more we have, the more we assume we will be happy.
In truth, the idea that happiness is measured by substantial volume is an absolute false and baseless concept. Our state of contentment is never dependent on “stuff.” Sure, we all have a state in that we can be lacking in necessary goods to survive. When one encounters these situations, then unhappiness is felt at our inability to sustain ourselves. However, beyond that, if we aren’t happy with the “stuff” we have, what makes us assume that more “stuff” will make us suddenly happy? How many of those adults realized the happiness they might have felt if they had stopped their Black Friday-esque rampage, and just watched their children? Took delight, in the pure pleasure that they had created this tiny version of themselves. An exuberant and innocent form of humanity that was untainted from all of the misfortunes that our social environment will reveal to them in due time.
Most importantly, did any of the people that day consider the entire reason that the celebration was occurring in the first place? Easter is the holiday that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. That is the whole reason that eggs are a tradition of the holiday. The egg is symbolic of resurrection because while the egg is dormant, it contains a new life sealed within it. The reason that the Easter Bunny is attributed to Easter, is because of the once widely held belief in the medieval church that hares were hermaphrodites. Hence, the rabbit could reproduce without loss of virginity. Therefore, the rabbit was associated with the Virgin Mary.
Whatever you do, don’t mention to North Carolina lawmakers that the Easter Bunny exist because it was believed to be transgender. Poor children in the Tar Heel State will be banned from having Bunny Cottontail ever visit their homes again.
However, in all seriousness, the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs are symbols of life, rejuvenation, and fertility. Basically, there is no better to celebrate Easter, than by celebrating the delight of the lives of our children. They are indeed, the actual embodiment of our generational renewal. Additionally, because we always want more for our kids than even ourselves, our children are emblematic of humanity’s own resurrection.
Lastly, remember is indeed a religious holiday. Now, I get it. There are vast numbers of people who celebrate Easter as a secular holiday. In truth, that’s principally how my family celebrates the occasion. However, that doesn’t mean that just because I’m Jewish, I cannot appreciate the virtues and meanings behind the holiday. Honestly, and I accept I may veer off the path from others on this, I consider there to be substantial truth behind the words of the current Pope. Pope Francis on more than one occasions has suggested it was better to be a good Atheist than it was to be a bad Christian. I will admit I agree with Pope Francis, however with the caveat; it’s better to be a good person of any faith or lack of faith than it is to be a bad person that claims religious devotion to any one particular religion.
So even as a Jew, to appreciate the virtue of the Easter holiday. For me, I can value the canonized words of the person whom the day is meant to celebrate. “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”- Luke 12.15.
Trusting that happiness is not incumbent on how much “stuff” you have may seem daunting to some of you. However, I am not asking anyone to clean out their bank account. Rather, I am just saying maybe this weekend; you can start off small. You can begin to work your way up to a life of happiness not attached to having an abundance of possessions. Maybe this weekend just let the kids find their own eggs, and you just sit back and relax. You might be surprised at how happy you actually can feel.