*(Jesus didn’t use cushions) quote from O Pagador de Promessas (Dias Gomes)
Spring is a season marked by fulfillment. Our desire to transition, propelled by the hopes of new blossoms and fresh starts, allowed us to brave the harsh winter. Its bevy of snow days tried our spirits and despite our reluctance to leave the house, which fostered propensities for reruns of crappy television and hot toddies, we emerged victorious.
As color surfaces everywhere, bringing with it floods of people on the street and in cafés, I feel myself thaw. After a difficult fall, I notice myself returning to a me that desires to stop and smell the roses. On a recent trip to the MFA in Boston, I realized how much I’ve progressed in my Zen by noticing the amount of time I could spend looking at one piece of art. While sitting in a recreated Buddhist sanctuary (which was awesome btw if you haven’t gone to the MFA lately- you should.), I was filled with thanks for the luxury to be able to just sit and be. It was just a few short months ago that I thought I would never get out of my cortisol frenzy, which left me feeling anxious, tired, and unable to see just how amazing this life I am leading is.
Through this Lenten journey, I have been struck by the concept of fulfillment. The ideas of completion, fruition, and wholeness riddle the various meanings of this word. As I sat in church on Palm Sunday, I was particularly attentive to the Gospel of Matthew (26:15) which discusses Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus, carried out to fulfill Jeremiah’s scripture. There has always been such a negative connotation surrounding Judas’ act. He is often seen as a villain, a man who made a choice to sell out his friend for money. However, after just finishing (FINALLY.) José Saramago’s The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, I sat in church contemplating a different way to view this transaction, noting how applicable this different viewpoint can be to our own lives.
If we look at the aftermath of Judas’ trade, we see the image of a man wrought with guilt. He hangs himself from a fig tree after relinquishing the thirty pieces of silver. In Saramago’s account of the incident, Jesus, who is portrayed through a very humanistic lens, treasures his friendship with Judas, and sees him as one of his greatest allies. He is the only disciple strong enough to put God’s plan into motion. Jesus praises him for accepting this task in his Passion, and even jokes with Judas moments before the soldiers invade Gethsemane, warning him that although he enjoys their fruit so much, he should be careful of fig trees (368).
Like Judas, we are all faced with difficult choices. I think about all of the decisions I’ve had on my plate this year: accepting a scholarship to a graduate school program that keeps me insanely busy, contemplating a school change, and moving. Sometimes making these difficult choices has made me feel like Judas- on the one hand a betrayer of others by making the hard decisions which allow us to move on, and on the other hand someone committed to doing what I feel is best for all, a support for others to start putting the wheels in motion too.
I reflect back on a beloved play that I read in college, as I understand the great connection that exists between making choices and feeling grateful. Isn’t there such a beauty in the simple fact that we even get to make choices and changes in our lives? In Dias Gomes’ O Pagador de Promessas (The Promise), the main character Zé-de-Burro makes a promise to Saint Barbara that if she will cure his donkey he will go on a great pilgrimage to her church for the annual feast celebration. When the donkey becomes well, he begins his hajj, all the while carrying a giant wooden cross. I think here about the promises we make to our gods, to ourselves, and wonder if we have the courage to give thanks and pay it forward when life hands us something spectacular. Do we sit idly, waiting for our anticipated fulfillment of fear and regret that negative past experiences have taught us is destined to come? Nothing gold can stay, right?
I believe that we do this, bracing ourselves for the worst because fulfillment is so much more of a choice than we care to grasp. Our fears that life will fall apart because of the unraveling of one big decision reflects an inner voice that says it’s scary to think that we are in control of getting what we want, that this is scarier even than believing that life is out of our control. However, like we see with the choices of Judas Iscariot, Zé-de-Burro, and the people near and dear to us, choices and decisions aren’t always meant to play out the way we expected, because perhaps it is the journey of understanding and *gasp* failing that makes us learn.
I see that fulfillment isn’t just about going along in life, making the choices and playing the roles that we believe we are supposed to in order to reach some predetermined end goal. There is no set path for happiness, and although it terrifies me to think that some of the choices I am making right now could land me flat on my face, I am beginning to wearily understand that there is no perfect decision and all we can do is understand our options and listen to our guts. We must keep in mind that the change which forces us to make moves can also propel us to get out of those choices when they no longer suit us, or when our lives take us down a path that we didn’t anticipate. It’s scary business going out on a limb, but if spring has taught us anything it is that this proverbial branch, although shaky and unpredictable, holds all the sweetest fruit.