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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Gedankenexperiment / Mourn / Morn / Morning

...for Easter, 2008

We will drive to Manhattan again tomorrow and worship of Easter's morn in the
church at the foot (toe, actually) of the big extra-point kicker's leg that is
the storied CITICORP Center.

As a church of artists, jazz musicians, theater people (mostly North Europeans
and displaced midwesterners), I always expect someone will break out in an Updike
poem or maybe a soliloquy from Eurydice, yet mostly what we experience here
these days is old-fashioned high church Protestant.
When this happens, my brain begins to wander off in vain imaginings of what it would
be like for us were Jesus to suddenly appear, peacefully enough , among us gathered in this high finance, high concept EMMAUS!?

What will the Resurrection mean to us today?

One would expect to find an answer among the Arts,
insofar as this is are where we hang on to,
bodied or not, the images and after-images
our resurrections doth bestow.

But something quite peculiar and even hilarious occurs
when us little, mortal birdies pretend to sprout wings
and hie Thence, thereafter.

This hilarity can be found in Updike’s unforgettable
Poem “Seven Stanzas for Easter”
seven-stanzas-at-easter-john-updike/ ]

…and it explains why Sara Ruhl deemed it necessary to fashion
her current play concerning Afterlife
as a poignant comedy-—just now on Broadway,
starring Mary Louise Parker, given life by Ann Bogart.

Ruhl asks, not in so many words, just how
will you and I be remembered when WE die?

The witty device she applies to her play,
Dead Man’s Cellphone, is not so much the phone "body" or handset
as the slightly more abstract notion of
whether our phones are “on” or not.

Jean (played by Parker) is off-duty from her job
in a Holocaust Museum, passing time in a
soup-bistro just as the man at the next table goes dead.

The incessant ring of his unanswered phone
awakens Jean to his death and absence, and leads
her down a kind of rabbit hole into remarkable
(often embarrassing or odd) discoveries about
The actual Particulars of His Life.

Jean learns that she can morph into the voice on the
dead-end of his phone, thereby opening up
incredible vistas of his afterlife, albeit drawn from
his just-now-defunct cellphone archive.

In the end Jean confesses:

“I never had a cellphone. I didn’t want to be there, you know.
Like if your phone is on you’re supposed to be there.
Sometimes I like to disappear.
But it’s like — when everyone has their cellphones on, no one is there.
It’s like we’re all disappearing the more we’re there.”

There it is. What will awaken us to the deaths and many resurrections
going about their heavenly business in the mad dash we have
made of this troublous life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work is done???
Then Lord, in your mercy, grant us safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last.
Support us all the day long and, when our time comes, hear us call,
even if our phones lie silent.

Amen. Alleluia!

David Allen Buehler
...began to read in Waterville, Ohio, in the 1940's,
and now mainly reads quizzes, speeches, and examinations
written by steadfast, resilient students at Providence College.

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