Toilet paper, Tiger King and Time Itself

 In Reflections

Guest Blog Post by Rev. Doug Fritzsche

Toilet paper, Tiger King and Time Itself: I’d call it the triumph of the trivial. What I’d look back on – assuming I’d look back on – all this: sequestration, coronavirus, pandemic, lockdown, whatever-you-call-it. The vacuum left when everything routine was shut off, was filled with trivia. Nature abhors a vacuum.

At least that’s what Aristotle thought. He gets credit for the line about the vacuum. Probably something that came to him when he had been sucking on his thumb and pulled it out with a resonant “pop!”
Oh yeah. Snarky. This stuff can make you snarky, too.

I have heard so many people opining on the after-life – that is, the life after “this” is over. So many, in fact, I wonder at the theology of it all. As if to reassure us, public figures like Governors’ Cuomo and Newsome soothingly assert “we Will get through this.” And I hear it often enough that I wonder, “Is this all just a meaningless spell suspensefully awaiting …. and awaiting …. and awaiting.”

Among the invaluable treasures I have gleaned in recent days is the assurance that toilet paper production is almost entirely domestic, and that there is adequate capacity regardless of panic buying. That had never crossed my mind. Honest. And that there is a subculture viciously interacting over the care and feeding of jungle animals in sunny Florida. Or that French geologist Michael Siffre spent two months in a darkened cave and discovered that his sense of passing time was off – by a lot. (That last, I think, was to reassure those who have missed Zoom meetings and forgotten it was Wednesday in the bland wasteland of unscheduled lockdown.)

If we’re all a bit adrift, who can blame us? If diving off a platform of normalcy into a well of uncertainty isn’t cause for real grief, what is? Dissociation – call it denial if you will – is as human a response as disconnecting your awareness awaiting, open-mouthed, the first incursions of your dentist. Checking out.

Are we just spinning our wheels? I think not. And in thinking not, I want to affirm the worth of creation – and you in it. As a Christian, I am this time of year entranced by the events around Easter. (“What did you give up for Lent this year?” “Oh, everything.”)

And while much is made of the cross and atonement and such, I’ll leave that for wiser heads. I’m fascinated by the bookend events: On one side is Pilate, the powerful governor asking Jesus-in-chains, “What is truth?” Entitled Pilate asks it with the dismissive confidence of one who has heard it all before. Jesus, of course, says nothing.

On the other side of the cross is an empty tomb. And, while part of the story is Resurrection, just as big a part is the simple assertion that whatever you thought you knew. Whatever was obvious. Whatever goes without saying. It isn’t the end of the story. It isn’t all.

“As I sit with all of this, I have found my focus for contemplative prayer this week, Kay Ryan’s poem “The Niagara River”, to be helpful. I offer it to you as well:

The Niagara River
By Kay Ryan

As though
the river were
a floor, we position
our table and chairs
upon it, eat, and
have conversation.
As it moves along,
we notice—as
calmly as though
dining room paintings
were being replaced—
the changing scenes
along the shore. We
do know, we do
know this is the
Niagara River, but
it is hard to remember
what that means.

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