Death in the beauty parlour

I don’t watch too many movies. I think it rattles me too much. I live in the damn screen and when the credits roll i’m spat out back into the existence where there is no eerie music when i’m down and no cool rock backbeat when i’m happy. So I don’t watch too many or watch something ridiculously silly like Space Balls.

In the wee hours of some morning I started watching ‘gangs of new york’. I managed to watch 20 or so minutes before I was forcibly shutdown by a few hundred sheep dashing bye late for their counting. In those 20 minutes i saw something that i saw before and seen many times since. People dying. But what grabbed me this time was how these people died.

The music they died to was beautiful. Filled with moving long notes of infinite sadness. They fell to the ground in a ghastly wholesome choreography. Death was poetry.

And death and suffering is poetry and beauty for large sections of the arts. I guess it was bound to happen. All the great promises of a few generations ago of health, peace and justice are so hollow. So now that we know such things are sheer fantasy we will live with this shit and we will love it. We will glorify it. We will beautify it.

As an eternal pessimist I should love this. But that Sunday garden keeps prodding me. And the Sunday garden tells me that death shouldn’t be in the beauty parlour with a bard at his right hand penning him his latest ode. The sunday garden tells me that death’s final place is in the fire. The last enemy who shall die one day.
The Sunday garden means everything’s possible.

Good Friday and Dali

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

Imagine the scene. Darkness has fallen at noon. The great healer, the miracle maker, the one who could run circles around the intelligent people of that day, the one whom the crowds adored, lies on a cross. The cruelest and most shameful death possible. And now, the one who proclaimed complete intimacy with his Father in heaven cries out, ‘Why have you forsaken me’?

To read this and not get shocked means that either we haven’t really got a clue what’s happening or we have read it too many times and it has no impact anymore.

Forsaken. Abandoned. Deserted. This is what Jesus in his pain is shouting. Can you imagine your closest friend or your spouse shouting this at you? Jesus’ cry is a real cry. It is not an intellectual quoting of scripture. He is someone who’s immersed himself in scripture and in the deepest darkness it is only scripture that can truly express what he feels.

And what is this scripture that Jesus cries out? Psalm 22. A psalm of David. A psalm which goes through deep emotions of loneliness and abandonment. This is a cry of humanity. All of us at some point in our lives feel this abandonment. We feel cut off, meaningless, worthless… it comes at us through movies, music, tv channels… there is no point, we are abandoned and unloved.

Jesus cry is the horror of separation, a ripping apart of himself. He is one with his Father and Spirit. We are meant to in a loving relationship with God and the people around us. Jesus goes through a tearing, a ripping of this relationship. And this is how most of us live our lives out. In alienation – from God and from those around us. Jesus has to experience it. Before death this is his deepest identification with humanity – the core of our brokenness as humanity lies in this alienation.
This is a painting by Salvador Dali.

Dali got his inspiration from a sketch by a Spanish monk known as St. John of the Cross. St. John of the Cross was an extremely devout man who was intensely persecuted for his faith. This man of God is most famous for his work ‘dark night of the soul’. It is a poem and theological treatise of the journey of the soul and the experience of abandonment that he felt on spiritual journey. Many men and women of God have experienced this abandonment, even mother Teresa.

In this painting we see Christ from above the cross. Though there is no blood depicted in the picture, the way the arms are horribly twisted in an unnatural angle gives us a glimpse of the pain and suffering Jesus goes through. The cross reaches through the darkness down into another scene. A man next to a boat. And there are 2 others. But they don’t seem in any way connected neither do they seem to be even aware of each other. Each stands in his own world and there is no activity. The sea is dead. There is no movement. Everyone seems in limbo. Everything seems meaningless.

Into this scene the cross reaches in. or pierces in. Christ’s forsakenness reaches deep into our own. Sinlessness invades all of sinful creation. This is Jesus Christ’s greatest hour. In his darkest moment he has done the greatest deed. Given himself up. Completely. For the ones he loved.

That’s us. And what happens next? That is a question that you and I have to answer. Daily.