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Something Happened

April 10, 2012

At the end of the  2006 National Geographic “In Search of Easter” Documentary, an anthropologist was asked the central question: “Did Christ rise from the dead?” His response was a terse “Something happened.”

Indeed. Whether a supernatural gamechanger or an astoundingly successful act of legerdemain, the resurrection embodies a transformative break from reasonable expectation.

For most of us, including Martin Luther, the depressing expectation of an infinite winter is broken by the resurrection of life every spring – totally natural, reasonably expected, but universally happy-making – even to my most serious science-minded friends.

We need rhythm. Regularity, met expectations, rewarded faith in reliably recurring truth are the bedrock of our collective will to live. When the metronomes of unrelenting gravity, sunrise, or seasons are punctuated by those cacophonies of unexpected breaks in the continuum of expectation, it can be terrifying.

Whether funnel clouds rip semi-trailers into the sky, or planes break thru a bright morning to demolish buildings, most of us reasonably fear these unpredictable traumas.

There is another type of inexplicable eventuality – the human kind.

When football nerds like me saw the Patriots grind thru the Giants in the second and third quarters of a Super Bowl, our reasonable expectation was that the game was over, talent and coaching will out. But the Giants won. Seeking to understand the reason – a coaching move, a change in personnel, the players and coaches on both sides effectively said, “something happened.”

When my son noted that a pick-up orchestra at his conservatory virtually sight read Beethoven’s 7th, and, miraculously, nothing went awry, he noted that when everyone channels their decades of performing to a singular effort “something happens.”

Clearly springtime’s break from the dark, cold dormancy of winter is literally refreshing. Clearly we “know” the world is not dead, but life is hidden from natural conditions that prevent growth and will emerge when light and heat are raised up to life-renewing levels.

We “know” that someone publicly tortured to death over an entire day, ten feet above a city’s hillside is dead. Christ was not a daffodil. He was not dormant. He was dead. “Something happened.”

The impact of whatever transpired has not been dulled after 2,000 years. Whether the events were cynically manipulated by a ruthless church oligarchy, or the instinctive personal piercing reality of hope finds a convenient crystallization, Easter/Passover is an enduring emotional bounce.

Unlike the Giants or the music students at Jacobs School of Music, the Easter/Passover transformation of expectation is not in real time, by participants. The literal zeitgeist is vital, cross-cultural and abiding despite the chasms of time and all reason.

For me, I think the truth survives the crucible of time. “Something happened.” is the only uncontestable truth. There is no videotape, no transcript, just transcribed oral history that is easily mocked.

Given its regularity and inevitability, the joy we feel at springtime is senseless. Given we execute the games and music we play, there should be nothing transformative or unexpected in them.

But there is joy, there are senseless outcomes, something does happen – in us.

That’s enough for me.

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