A (Slightly) Psychoanalytic Easter

"Surely, a friend loves a friend the way
That I love you, enigmatic life —
Whether I rejoiced or wept with you,
Whether you gave me joy or pain.

"I love you with all your harms;
And if you must destroy me,
I wrest myself from your arms,
As a friend tears himself away from a friend’s breast.

"I embrace you with all my strength!
Let all your flames ignite me,
Let me in the ardor of the struggle
Probe your enigma ever deeper.

"To live and think millennia!
Enclose me now in both your arms:
If you have no more joy to give me —
Well then—there still remains your pain."

— "Hymn to Life"; Lou Andreas-Salomé (1861-1937), Russian-born writer, one of the first female psychoanalyst

I'm grateful to have been raised in a tradition that honors and contemplates the archetype par excellence embodied in Jesus as the Christ—the one who loved living so much that not even death could keep him from it; who returned to his friends and disciples after his execution not trailing "clouds of glory" but the very wounds and experiences of his life.

Much early and Eastern Christian art depict Jesus returning to life not alone, but with Adam and Eve, representations of humanity in total—a signal that Jesus is not a one-off anomaly, but an archetypal model for anyone. It seems to me the earliest Christian message was an invitation to an absolute embrace of life and all its contents: oneself, others, the circumstances one can and cannot change, the situations one experiences from moment to moment; the panorama of sensations from suffering to joy, and the vast and sometimes traumatic existence in which all these things are grounded and from which they arise.

I'm not the most traditional of Mormons, or even Christians, but I believe strongly in fidelity to and love of existence in itself. It's an ideal which invites me to privilege the present, to see "what should be" as an attempt to escape from a painful world by way of futile fantasy, and to see possibility as that which always comes by way of the present. I see that ideal embodied authentically in Jesus as the Christ. Whether as historical figure or literary hero, "Christ" names the potential capacity for this embrace in every person. Christ depicts that capacity in his refusal of every temptation to desire anything other than who and where he was, what he was doing, who he was with, what was happening; in his embrace of what is and thus what could be, over against escapism or fantasy—in his willingness to experience even the maximal depths of suffering and death.

For me, Holy Week, and especially Easter, is a moment to commemorate and rededicate myself to this messianic embrace of existence and all its contents, just as existence itself unconditionally holds all within itself without passivity, rejection, or withdrawal. It's a moment when I consider how to love in a way in which every one of us is always already loved.


Image: "Anastasis," Andreas Ritzos (1421-1492), Byzantine Christian. Hermitage Museum.