Monday, March 24, 2008


There might be some who would say that Eastertide is the wrong time to be writing about ephiphany. But "epiphany" is not only the Christian holy day twelve days after Christmas. AN epiphany is defined as, "a sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something," or, "a comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization." For those who remember their Robert Heinlein, an epiphany is extremely similar to the Martian notion of grokking, which means, "to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed." (That's from Stranger in a Strange Land.)

An epiphany could be described as a spiritual realization, one in which you do not simply understand something new but through which you and the world around you become something new. Once experienced, things are forever different.

I thought of this recently when I found myself musing on an experience I keep having since my partner gave me an ipod for my birthday. I've downloaded a number of songs that I'd listened to growing up, and I keep hearing things--bass lines, drum rhythms--that I hadn't noticed before. Now that I've heard them, though, I can't not hear them, even when I'm listening to my old LPs in less than perfect conditions. What once was inaudible to me, now that I'm aware of it, sings out crystal clear.

And that reminded me of those old optical illusions in which two images are together in one picture. Is this an image of a young woman with her face turned away from us, or is it an elderly woman with her chin tucked into the fur of her coat? Usually people see only one or the other at first. Sometimes it takes a real (and oft times frustrating) effort to see the other. When one does, though, it becomes virtually impossible not to see the image--sometimes to the point of it being hard now to see the image one saw at first.

And so it is with the spiritual realization. What at first was unseen or unheard--what was in the background is now the foreground. Take, for instance, the idea that the real question of Eastertime is not "do you believe in the resurrection of Jesus" but "have you experienced resurrection in your own life?" The most important thing to consider this season is not whether or not a Jewish teacher of some two thousand years ago got up and walked out of his tomb, but whether or not you have ever gotten free from the "tomb" of your own experience.

Perhaps that "tomb" was a depression, or the crushing end of a relationship, the loss of a job (or hope), the death of a loved one, an encounter with your own mortality. The real question raised by Easter is whether or not you have ever risen from your tomb, whether you've ever been raised to new life, renewed life.

Once we realize that these ancient stories are our stories, are pointers to our own lived experiences, you and the world around you become something new.


In Gassho,

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