This gorgeous, warm, blue sky, green grass, pink and yellow blossoming spring weather here in the Northeast, is stirring after such a long harsh winter. I know it can even be wrenching, if it’s been a rough year for you; it can be a reminder of the way the force presses on with you or without you. Anyway, I had particularly vivid memory last week that sparked a question about what I’ve heard called “religious imagination.” I remembered lying in the grass in my yard looking up at blue sky (I believe we had the afternoon off from school for Good Friday, which reveals that I went to school in the old days, before separation of church and state). Of all things, I was thinking and yes even singing about Thumbelina. It must have been prompted by looking at the new grass or up at the budding trees. In the midst of this little childish pagan celebration, however, my mother told me to come inside because it was time to be still (there used to be certain afternoon hours set aside to contemplate the crucifixion). I remember not knowing what to think about Good Friday. Was it as if it was still happening? I asked my mother, who really didn’t want to have a theological discussion. “Just be still,” she said. Blunt, inadvertent profundity was her style. On Saturday, again, I experienced the sense that I was supposed to embody a story, a drama–not knowing how to embody it. Finally, on Easter, I got the basket and got all dressed up (including white gloves and a hat) But even through the chocolate bunny haze, there was another trace. There was a question in me about what it meant to embody this drama, to engage it, to die and go to depths and then have a new life.
Strangely, last Friday also turned out to be Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday (and a friend told me that Google had a little Thumbelina character on their search page. I wonder if there was a Google debate about which image would be more innocuous. What a world!)
I told a friend who reminded me that Kenneth Koch said (and she heard this from the saintly Mister Rogers) we are not just the age we are, we are all the ages we ever were. When she was a child, she believed the ashes from Ash Wednesday, which come from the burning of the palms from Palm Sunday, came from the ashes of the dead. What a powerful reminder of the reality of death that would be.
This also raises the interesting question of what “religious imagination” might be. Are we meant to enact a kind of inner drama that brings about inner transformation?