Cynicism and Resurrection
“Son of man, what is this proverb that ye have in the land of Israel, saying, The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth? “
- Ezekiel -
“and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. “
- Peter -
People often say that the major problem about time and getting old is losing hope. In their view, once you reach a certain age you have less resources and less time to do something significant with your life. But I don’t believe that. The greatest danger of aging is cynicism. Cynicism and age are directly proportional. And cynicism increases with every year. The reason is simple: as time passes you accumulate more knowledge, experiences, skills, information. You learn. More and more things. You get used to them. You learn how to react and how to avoid dangers. Meanwhile you discover that nothing really deserves the entire effort of your emotions or your attention. Step by step you discover that no bad thing is as bad as it seems. And no good thing is so amazing as its promise. You discover that nothing changes. Nobody changes. Politicians remain basically the same, in their disarticulated balance between right and left. Celebrities remain essentially the same, with the same muddy and insipid glamor. Religious leaders stay the same. Even though they may feel the COVID sting. Unchanged in their perennial hypocritical pretense. The barons of commerce and economy stay the same, greedy and manipulative. Art and the artists perform the same repetitive cycles. Nothing and nobody seems to change. Your friends continue to play the same condescending role. Of being nice. Your enemies play the same predictable zero-sum game. In time you learn (it’s almost impossible not to), you learn the gestures of this kabuki theater. Everybody is repeating the same thing around you. The same predictable fear, the same hunger, the same desire to escape reality is haunting everybody. So you become bored. Life becomes boring, with all its kabuki theater.
I believe this is the greatest danger. The very moment you stop believing in the unusual, the unimaginable and the unexpected. In the unpredictable, the unbelievable and in… Resurrection.
Otherwise, how in the world can you juxtapose cynicism and the Resurrection? Inside this smooth and predictable universe. Inside this universe soaked with the overwhelming fog of fatalism. The cynicism and the fatalism that confronts each one of us. From ancient Noah to Derrida.
However, it’s impossible not to remember this while watching “the Golden Parade”. “The parade of the pharaohs” - macabre procession sumptuously cruising Cairo’s boulevards. During Passover Saturday. Among them the sarcophagus of Ramses the 2nd (Ramesses the Great). The pharaoh who felt and saw with his own eyes the unimaginable power of the God of Israel during the night of the First Passover. Isn’t that a bit unusual, unbelievable,… almost strange? To watch the procession of a mummified cadaver while, at the same time, “the God of the other side” is celebrating His Resurrection? Isn’t this a significant wrinkle in the space-time continuum of predictability?
Death is the utmost triumph of cynicism. Sometimes I watch documentaries about archeology or forensic anthropology. It’s amazing to see the skeletal remains of somebody who lived 6000 years ago, or 5000, 2000, 500, 100 or even 50 years ago. And the greatest temptation is cynicism: they, too, were like me. I am not different from them. The only difference is this pathetic distance in centuries. I, too, will one day be like them. After that there will be only silence. Ashes and dust. Inexorably we all are thinking the same thing.
The only wrinkle in this painting is the Resurrection. The Resurrection is like a fracture, a fissure, a breach on the smooth and predictable surface of cynicism. The Resurrection takes your breath away with its explosion of light and boundlessness. And that’s because the Resurrection, fundamentally, doesn’t belong to our system. It doesn’t belong to this world. The Resurrection is not the possession or the allegory of any religion. It’s not the escapist solution of any philosophy. The Resurrection is the amazing spark of a universe we can’t understand because our race abandoned it millenia ago. Our world is the world of death and the world of lies. The world of decay and addiction. Our world is fundamentally short-circuited. It’s a vicious circle. The only benefit of the passing of time in our world seems to be cynicism. The wisest among us allow themselves to get infected by it. Willingly. The same way you fall in the embrace of a drug. However, it’s a drug, nonetheless. An escape. A desperate attempt to preserve lucidity inside a mutilated and sinister world.
During the evening of the First Passover a bearded guy ran into some people fetching water from a well. He stopped and asked them: Hey, you Hebrew guys, do you want to be free? They looked at him and answered jokingly: Common’ man, be serious and shut up. Some Egyptian may hear you and we might get in trouble.
You see, essentially, Resurrection means to not be a normal person. Cynics are normal people. They are people who have the normal, predictable reaction to reality. The Resurrection confronts you with a straightforward choice: keep being normal and fetch water from the well the same way you’ve done it all your life. Or choose to do what none of your forefathers have done for more than ten generations (300 years). Choose to believe and to depend on something that is totally unsure. Something that you’ll never be able to control.
Sometimes, I find this whole story of the Resurrection to be quite funny. Because, at the end of the day, any other thing in the Scripture can be explained, allegorized, theologized, interpreted or misinterpreted. Under a myriad of shapes and forms. But the Resurrection is like a strike to the solar plexus. Like a KO punch. It cuts your airflow in a split second. You remain suspended between life and death. Between reason and madness. The Resurrection cannot be interpreted. You can make any philosophy out of it. You cannot place it in your pocket like some theological Swiss Army Knife.
The whole waggish wisdom of the cynical guy suddenly feels quaint and stale when confronted with the Resurrection.
Yes, it’s true. It seems nothing changes. All the visions and the epiphanies of poets and prophets seem to be lost cries in the desert. A desert not different from the desert of Mizraim. Nothing seems to change. All that’s new is already old.
Cynicism is the most accurate expression of normality inside this reality. The Resurrection is the triumph of abnormality in the space-time continuum of this reality. Some people call it madness. Madness for Christ.
Alternative ending: Some people call it losing your mind. Losing your mind for Christ.