If Jesus Rose from the Dead Why Doesn’t My Mom?

I’ve probably been to Catholic Mass as many times since my mom died as I’d gone with her since returning to Ohio from Seattle, several years ago. I always felt like an imposter when I went. Everyone worshipped so sincerely and I felt like I detracted from that energy, the way a non-participant in laughter therapy can ruin a session. I went a few times with her as her illness progressed because I felt like she wanted me to and I got something out of it, but I liked to stay home and write while she and her husband were at church and then have breakfast ready for them when they got home. Mom came to understand that represented me better and she respected that.

Now I’ve been to her funeral Mass, another bereavement service, Christmas, and Easter. I go so her husband doesn’t have to go alone, but I also go for me. Mom’s there. I drift in and out of paying attention. I’m mostly communing with the mystery, where Mom’s gone, to the mystery of being. Our presence proves the mystery of being. My conflict with religion is that it attempts to unravel the mystery by attaching specifics I don’t relate to. What Joseph Campbell taught me is that all religions are true. They’re metaphorical of something. What’s happening to Jesus should be happening in your life. Whether Jesus rose from the dead or didn’t, that was almost two-thousand years ago. I relate to it as a story. Jesus died and rose from the dead, as a metaphor. My mom died but I think of her sitting in her church with her husband, as I always think of her, but being in church brings me closer to the mystery of being, where she is now, and I commune with her. She has risen. It’s well known that that’s blasphemy, in some thinking, but in other thinking that is the point of religion to recognize that God is in you and your loved ones and everyone you meet. Joseph Campbell says, “Jesus ascended to heaven but what is heaven? Heaven is no place. He ascended to heaven through the inward space which is where you must go.” Sitting in church, I travel to the inward space and be with my mom. I enjoy that.

Telephone Religion

Let’s just say, for discussion’s sake, that I gave you one of my books to read and you loved it. You asked that question writers are often asked, Where did you get the idea for that book?

My answer surprises you. I woke up one morning and found the manuscript pages bound on my kitchen table, arrived by magic. The book is unchanged. The only thing changed is your relationship to it. As you were reading, you connected with me, because you know me, or if you don’t, you connected in a vague way with “the author.” Now your connection with the book is to the supernatural.

Where I’m going with this is we have religions that all relate to each religion’s different God. Which works great for a great many people, but there’s one-hundred thousand years of source material to which all these modern religions relate. Themes repeat throughout ancient cultures, first man stories, flood stories, all of this spoke to ancient humans the same way these stories speak to many of us today. Then if you think of these ancient stories as inventions that comfort us or as discoveries we’ve made—helped along by visiting deities or not—over the course of human history about a plane of existence beyond this earthly one, with either possibility equally likely and not mutually exclusive, then no one’s left out. All of consciousness since the advent of our recognition of our temporality is connected in the challenge of being human. You can’t beat that.

My Knee Hurt Precisely This Much

This is the most useful piece of advice this blog is likely to ever include, if not the only (advice is overrated, that’s an opinion, not advice): perform a thorough, objective analysis of your symptoms before a doctor’s appointment and tell them everything. They know everything you don’t and you know everything they don’t. They know about health but nothing about your health. You know nothing about health but everything about how you’re feeling. Figure out where it hurts, when it hurts, what helps, what doesn’t. Then spill all that information and leave it to them to sort through.

I was doing that regarding my knee, which hurt after a few short runs a month ago. I told him icing it doesn’t help. Then I stopped myself because I wanted to be precise. I said icing it doesn’t seem to help. Maybe if I didn’t ice it, it would be worse. Later I caught myself making the same mistake when I told him icy hot didn’t help. I corrected that and said it doesn’t seem to help, maybe the icy hot was preventing it from being even more painful.

I’m currently reading a philosophy book, The Rebel, by Albert Camus, and I realized reading philosophy, besides being enjoyable as you’re reading, has a positive effect on the way you experience life. This potential throwaway moment felt profound. Suddenly my dead father felt in the room with me. In seventh grade I started up baseball, again, having given up after my first year of eligibility. (Having gone that first season without hitting the ball. I didn’t say without any hits. I said without hitting the ball. I still remember nearly getting a foul tip, that year.) I remember trying out my cup in full uniform before the first game. I must have had some understanding, either learned or innate, of the importance of my balls or I recognized protecting them as a symbol of crossing a threshold in growing up. I knocked on the cup with my fist, but I still felt something. I knocked harder. Sure enough, I still felt something. So I showed my dad. I knocked on the cup as hard as I could. “I can still feel something.”

“Yeah?” my dad said, “so take it out and try that. See how that feels.” And he laughed.

I think a nice life lesson can be found in that. Now you could take that too far and develop a things could always be worse philosophy, which is rather dreary, but that’s not the necessary take away. I take it as a lesson about precision. The cup didn’t completely keep me from feeling my knocking with my fist but it was sure helping. My knee hurt. I was icing it and it still hurt. That didn’t mean the ice wasn’t helping. So far this life lesson applied to a philosophy of life doesn’t show a path to bliss but it’s useful in taking measure of your life. Consider what you might be missing, what you might need, but counter that feeling with an appraisal of what you have. If nothing else this will better position you for moving forward.

Update: since writing this I finished The Rebel, it was excellent. Also my knee is nearly pain free.