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Time to open our hearts to deeper truths
Easter is a time of reflection and renewal - Australia needs both, writes Caroline Jones.
AND what is truth? Pontius Pilate's question at the trial of Jesus Christ echoes down the centuries, weary with cynicism, to find ready currency in Australia today.
Pilate was trying to wash his hands of an awkward local government squabble concerning some stirrer and his minority group from the bush (could anything good ever come out of Galilee?). Pilate wanted nothing to do with it.
As Governor of Judea he was focused on effective tax collection for Rome and his own political survival. Finally he hearkened to the public opinion polls. ("Crucify him. Crucify him.")
And what is truth ? A person's own lived experience is truth. Everyone has a life story; each story is unique. In a just and humane society there should be room for everyone's story to be told with respect and compassion. From the warp and weft of all the stories the society is woven.
Lowitja O'Donoghue, AO, CBE, was taken from her mother, home and family at age two, to the Colebrook Home for Half-Caste Children. She was 35 before she found her mother again. Her mother spoke Yunkunjatjara but Lowitja had been schooled, with a leather strap, out of the language of her infancy; they could not communicate. But Lowitja was told that her mother had waited each day by the roadside, watching for her return.
Lowitja gained skills in the white world. Equally, what she lost cannot be denied. It is impossible not to be moved by her story - unless you are just not prepared to feel that emotional and spiritual pain.
In which case you might ask instead Pilate's question: And what is truth? Did that really happen?
And if it did, it was meant for the best; and only a small percentage; if I say sorry I'm admitting guilt; I can't be responsible for what happened back then. The rationalisations work like a drug relieving the pain - for a while.
The Japanese are queuing up to buy a robot puppy. It's very expensive, its movements are jerky, its angular, high-tech body cold to the touch, yet demand is outstripping supply. Asked the reason for its sales appeal, a Japanese marketing person said that if you had a real puppy and it died, you would have to be sad. But the robot cannot die and so sadness is avoided. It should sell well here.
We put enormous energy into evading suffering with drink, drugs, overwork, loud music, making money, overdosing on information and attempting to be in control. The eminent bereavement researcher Mal McKissock suggests that Australia is a nation built on unresolved grief - from waves of transportation, dispossession and even willing migration leaving a resonance of exile.
Maybe this explains why some of us can't say sorry. To say sorry changes the one who says it. To say sorry, and mean it, is to acknowledge another person's pain. And that is compassion, and the seeds of compassion were sown by our own suffering. And we don't want to be reminded of that. Easier to bury it and move on.
The night before he died, at the first Easter, even Jesus in Gethsemane sought to avoid his suffering. ("Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.") But it was not to be. There would be no resurrection without crucifixion. ("Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.")
Two thousand years later, do we still "know not what we do" when it comes to right and wrong?
In the whole drama of Calvary there is another modest, unnamed figure who may point a way through our impasse to reconciliation. It is one of the two thieves crucified on either side of Jesus. The first one taunted Jesus that if he was indeed the Son of God, this would be a good moment to pull rank and save them.
But the second man admitted his stealing and then, in one of the most poignant appeals in all recorded human history, he asked simply, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
Jesus' response is recorded in the Gospel of Luke, Ch 23: "Today you will be with me in Paradise." The thief had lost everything but the truth, and it was the truth which set him free. Whether we regard the Crucifixion as history, revelation, metaphor or fable, it is a seminal image in the Western psyche.
Even unconsciously it holds our attention because it helps us to make sense of our suffering. With its claim of "not only death but also new life", the cross resolves the tormenting paradox of human existence: Jesus Christ, champion of the poor and marginalised, was crucified but he rose to new life, inviting all to follow ("I go to prepare a place for you"). And his story has inspired people for 2000 years.
Easter holds the assurance that, in each "death" - in the small setbacks or the big crises that come to everyone - there may be, against the odds, shoots of new growth.
It is in the light of Easter that we can see the defeat of Anzac as a victory. It's difficult to explain to anyone else, but Australians know the truth of it. Yes, Gallipoli was a terrible loss. Yet in its sacrifice were sown the seeds of our national identity, pride and wonder that they gave their lives for us.
"And what is truth?" Easter and Anzac both. Both appear to be absurd failures, yet both offer the sustaining promise that, at the darkest hour, there is always hope.
Caroline Jones is author of An Authentic Life (ABC Books, 1998) and a contributor to ABC TV's Australian Story.
A poignant article of reflection and renewal.
Regards from OZ
-- Pieter (email@example.com), April 20, 2000
-- Easter (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 20, 2000.
"In a just and humane society there should be room for everyone's story to be told with respect and compassion."
Sometimes a sentence says more than a book. We can respectfully disagree with our fellow posters. We can have compassion for those that are obviously in some kind of trouble-which is easy to tell from some of the posts.
I am going to try and remember this sentence when I respond to those with whom I disagree.
-- FutureSHock (email@example.com), April 20, 2000.
Thank you for your continous posting. I watch for you daily. Each of us could learn something from this article.
-- Tommy Rogers (Been there@Just a Thought.com), April 20, 2000.
You said it FS!!
THAT is the responsibility that comes with freedom of speech, not the right to insult your fellow man simply because it is legal to do so.
There is still hope for humanity, if we all remember that.
-- Hawk (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 21, 2000.