Earthquakes, G20, Jade Goody - Why We Still Need Easter
Three news stories from the past week remind us why Easter should remain a sacred and special season, even in today's highly secularised page.
The devastating earthquake in Italy this week reminded us that our collective fate is profoundly impacted by natural events beyond our control.
The recent bushfires in Victoria, Australia -- the state of my birth - inevitably point us to the same conclusion.
Futurists sometimes speak of events like these as wildcards -- low probability, high impact events that are potential game-changers in terms of their impact on human society.
Historically, our standard of living has reached unprecedented levels, yet we remain somewhat vulnerable beings living in exposed outposts, reliant on nature's goodwill for survival.
This past week, much has also been said and written about the G20 Summit in London. Major world leaders took to the stage to smile for the cameras and to remind each other that something big must be done in the face of near global recession.
Yet, whilst they agreed that national governments must provide a stimulus for economic renewal, the leaders didn't seem able to agree on how deeply they should dig into their wallets, or purses.
Some sided with the Anglo-US contingent, looking for even more than the $1.1 trillion finally signed off. Others took the Franco German view, which drew a line and said "no more".
Both the earthquake and the G20 summit - or the recession that provided its back-story -- remind us that, for all our technological prowess, we are less in control of our collective destinies then we like to think.
A third story has served to remind us that the same is true on an individual level.
For a while, Jade Goody seemed to have found in celebrity culture a form of salvation; a redemption from the miserable life she had endured as a child. Or so it probably seemed to those find their dose of culture in the highly manipulated world of so-called reality TV.
Ms Goody was asked why she would consider having her last days tracked by TV cameras. Her life had only really begun when she first appeared on TV, she replied, so perhaps it was fitting that it should end in full view of the cameras.
As Malcolm Muggeridge once noted, the camera always lies. It excises so much from any scene that it leaves us with a highly doctored view of reality.
Despite the undeniable good she did in her last months -- especially in raising awareness of cervical cancer among young women -- one can hardly say that Jade's life, even after celebrity, was an enviable one.
If the truth be told, despite becoming more media savvy as time went by, she was as manipulated as it is possible for anyone to be - by money-men, PR agents and TV producers.
For many of us, the most poignant part of her all-too-short story was not the ups and downs of celebrity life, but the way it all came to such an abrupt end. In an age where we don't much like to discuss or even acknowledge death, the passing of someone so young and full of passion is sobering.
Again, we like to think that we are in control of our personal destinies, that Father Time has his watch conveniently synched to ours. But as John Lennon put it, "life is what happens when you're busy planning something else."
We may talk of prolonging life through anti-ageing treatments, bio-enhancement techniques and even cryogenics, but life remains a fragile, precious gift and we should never treat it lightly.
Which is why, even for the least religious among us, these days of Easter should not be seen as mere holidays, but as "holy days".
Ours is an age where it seems that the sacred is slowly being eroded from every part of life. Yet surely there is value for each of us in this rare opportunity for reflection and renewal.
Easter is, after all, the commemoration of a death -- the brutal and mostly unexpected death of a young man who showed enormous promise but who was, as prophets had foretold, cut down in his prime.
Easter is a reminder of the certainty and unpredictability of death. It recalls for us the words of Ecclesiastes, "There is a season for everything under heaven." There is a time to be born, it says, as well as a time to die.
Yet Easter is far from a morbid season. It is an opportunity to reflect on the Christian hope of triumph coming from tragedy; the concept that on the other side of life's tragedies, life's "wildcards", we can discover the wonders of resurrection, renewal and regeneration.
At the very least, Easter provides an opportunity to reflect, to call to mind all the good things we've been given in life - especially when we might be focussed most on what we've lost.
It's a time for restoration, of damaged relationships and hitherto lost opportunities. And it's our chance to relate, spending quality time investing in the people who count most: family and friends.
Copyright Mal Fletcher 2009