Tag Archives: theology

Bright Lights, Two Birds, One Strange Week

Over five days, I’ve twice faced a volley of flashing cameras — not the norm for a less-than-famous writer. These occasions involved those two verboten dinner-table subjects: politics and religion (a rule ignored in my home, where 8.1-on-the-Richter-Scale arguments were common). Only this blog isn’t about either. It’s about the profound strangeness of life as I sometimes experience it.

So those of you who didn’t vote for Obama please don’t unsubscribe, just grab a quick look at the photo on the far left (the placement is accidental, not political). In this picture — taken at the Sheraton Hotel ballroom in Toronto last Tuesday evening— your Less-Than-Thoughtful Blogger is going berserk, raising high her beloved Big Bird (festooned with campaign regalia) like liberty’s torch. Sweet little BB drew an impressive array of video hardware to our table, resulting in interviews with CTV and CITY-TV in Toronto (asking me questions such as “Why Big Bird?” and — duh — “Why Obama?”). Your momentarily-crazed blogger also appeared in the Metro tabloid (standing on a chair, holding BB aloft and cheering) and in NOW, the city’s weekly news and entertainment weekly. So I’ve had my fifteen minutes of fame, thanks to a yellow fluffball, an attack of the sillies, and, oh yeah, a presidential victory.

Then came Sober Saturday, and the sizzle of a goofy persona flipping over like a pancake on a griddle.

Cut to the nave of St. Basil’s Church in Toronto, where a barrage of flashing cameras and smartphones greeted a colourful array of academics, floppy-hatted PhDs, and other degree recipients, including the Thoughtful (gowned and hooded) Blogger. She was there to receive her Diploma in Theological Studies  — ten courses over eight years of part-time study at the University of St. Michael’s College, which is where Thoughtful B. goes to the brain-gym and works out.  Theology? Can’t imagine what else I’d study. I’m curious about everything in life, including how a clown, scholar and writer of fiction may abide in one compact speck of creation in a strange and ineffable universe. Theology’s fantastic for a lover of language, engaged in the never-ending task of naming the unnameable, which, in any case, is what we do when we write fiction with truth at its heart.

This time, the flashing cameras belonged to friends and families who mobbed for a huge photo-op outside the church where a brisk wind was snapping at hoods and gowns. Well, who knows — maybe it was the flapping of wings, Big Bird ceding his role to the Holy Spirit, roosting, nesting and abiding in mystery.

My head’s still spinning.

What an incredible week it was.

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The Strangest Story of All

Out of the hundreds of books—novels, novellas, short stories, nonfiction— that I’ve read in my lifetime, none has a story as strange as the one which Christians celebrate this weekend. Whenever I read the tale of Easter, I feel perplexed. Most of us don’t. Most of us are either skeptical or unquestioning. In the first instance, what’s with a dead guy coming back to life? Resurrection’s a nice metaphor—it’s spring and the daffodils are rising from the dead, and beyond that, it’s whatever. At the opposite extreme, there are those Christians who have absolute faith in Jesus, the tombstone-roller with a string of miracles already on his resume. Easter’s the ultimate one-off. He’s God, after all.

I’m neither a dismissive skeptic nor a hard-core believer. I’m a writer who loves and appreciates the mystery of life that surrounds us, who knows that in creative moments, it’s possible to step outside the confines of time and to glimpse extraordinary visions. “Life is not a series of gig-lamps symmetrically arranged,” wrote Virginia Woolf, “but a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.”

Mystery counts for me as a writer—awe and wonderment, respect for those things that we cannot understand, even as we struggle to express them in words. Mystery drives us onward. In this spirit, I’m also a student of theology, and with great literary and scholarly interest, I’ve studied the four gospels and their breathless eyewitness accounts of the first Easter morning, none of which quite agree. As a writer, I approach these heartfelt and puzzling declarations, mindful of the “luminous halo” that also enveloped those scribes of long ago, sensing the truth-value of statements that are beyond me. I conclude that there’s no way to prove or disprove the events of Easter.

Yet as a writer, I’m not dismayed by this claim of resurrection.  It’s just too mysterious, too full of wonder to dismiss outright. It’s the strangest story, real and surreal, filled with both reportage and narrative invention. It invites us to peer through the veil of time, and there the story ends. Or maybe it just keeps right on going, as good stories do, alive in the world and in us.

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