Sunday, April 24, 2011

An Easter Treatise

        I am not, technically speaking, a Christian, but I have had the opportunity this week to reflect on Jesus' teachings, and I thought I would offer what I learned here, in case it is of use to anyone.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart...: Not something 'above the earth.'  The Kingdom of God does not "come" chronologically-historically, on a certain day in the calendar, something that might be here one day but not the day before: It is an 'inward change in the individual,' something that comes at every moment and at every moment has not yet arrived--"

"With that, 'Christ on the cross' had to be interpreted anew.  This death in itself was not at all the main thing--it had been only one more sign of how one ought to behave in relation to the authorities and laws of this world: not to defend oneself-- That had been the lesson."
-Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, pp 99-102

           I have always held the belief, as I think most people do, that relationships are a thing of give and take, of exchange.  But when is one supposed to give, and when should one receive?  If I am not getting what I need in a relationship at a particular point in time, do I stop giving until I start receiving again?  
          I think, perhaps, the answer to the last question is a definite no, and the answer to the first is more complicated, depending on circumstances, but generally boils down to: "Until you can't anymore."  And if that is true, then relationships, and love, are not exchanges, but gifts.
          Jesus said, and I'm quoting from memory here so please forgive any lapses, "If you love those who love you in return, what thanks have you? For the evil also love those who love them."  
         Loving someone in expectation that they will love you back is a payment for services rendered--and I, at least, don't like that definition of a loving relationship.  Am I not willing to suffer, to go without, in service to the people I love, with no expectation of return?  I want to be the kind of person who is willing to do that.  And if I am willing to suffer, and to give with no expectation, then my definition of a relationship has to change.  
         There is, of course, a point at which you can't give anymore--but it is not anyone else's job to recognize that point, or to reimburse you for what you have given away willingly.  It is your job to decide when you have given enough.  In order to decide that well, you should determine what you can afford to give without reciprocation.  This is true if we're talking about money, and it is also true if we are talking about time, and emotional investments.  
         So this week I have been thinking about how much I am willing to give, without return, to the people I love.  If I love them for who they are, and not because of what they do for me, then everything I do for them, and all the love I express to them, is a gift.  And I have been pleasantly surprised to find just how much I am willing to do, and how full I actually feel when I let go of the belief that I need to be loved in return.  It is more than I would have thought.
         In my secular version of the Jesus story, I don't think that Jesus expected to save anyone's soul.  But he died rather than retaliate, rather than defend himself against those who would hurt him, and what greater strength and generosity is there?  Maybe we are not that strong and generous, but I think we can be more generous than we normally allow ourselves to be.  I think we can approach that kind of generosity.  I think we can do more than we would have thought.

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