Chrysalis, Crater and Crypt, part I

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Every truth has a consequence; every light casts a shadow.

Atlanta really didn’t have “winter” this year; I’m not sure it ever even really reached freezing at my house.  Some celebrated its absence, but I didn’t.  I missed it; I need the four seasons.  The cadence is a

If you’re new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!

Every truth has a consequence; every light casts a shadow.

Atlanta really didn’t have “winter” this year; I’m not sure it ever even really reached freezing at my house.  Some celebrated its absence, but I didn’t.  I missed it; I need the four seasons.  The cadence is a deep spiritual rhythm for me:  birth, growth, harvest and sabbath.

The lack of winter has already had practical consequences for me:  I have been bitten by mosquitoes no less than three times!  There are also a great deal winged creatures congregating around my porch light.  Some are beautiful, others creepy; but as long as they don’t bite me, I try not to judge.

Viewing them reminded me of a story I heard on NPR in the spring of 2008. Biologists Martha Weiss and Doug Blackiston at Georgetown University wondered if moths remember anything from their caterpillar days.  The process of transforming from caterpillar into moth is rather traumatic; inside the chrysalis, a biological minestrone is stewing—a complete biological meltdown and reorganization.  Through the trauma of metamorphosis, does anything remain.

The biologists used green tobacco hornworm caterpillars to see if learning in this stage of their development could persist into life as a moth.  The scientists would give the caterpillars a whiff of stinky gas and then an electrical shock.  (I know, poor things!)  According to professor Weiss, “you could tell that they noticed the shock.”  The caterpillars actually quickly learned, stench = jolt, and would avoid anything that smelled jolting.

Chrysalis, Crater and Crypt, part I

Tobacco Hornworm caterpillar, pupa and moth

The learned caterpillars then spent the normative 5 weeks in their chrysalis urn; their bodies and brains melting down and reorganizing.  When they emerged as their transformed winged-selves and given the choice of stinky air or non-stinky air, they noticeably avoided the stench.  In other words, their learning survived the trauma of metamorphosis.  Professor Weiss says, “they’re not good at crossword puzzles.  They’re not good a calculus, but they can make connections that are relevant to their lives.”

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We are in the midst of our Great 50 Day celebration of Easter, our “alleluias” have returned to worship.  However, even a casual read of the Easter pericopes in the Gospels reveal that the disciples do not quickly or easily proclaim “alleluia.”  They have entered a soupy metaphoric minestrone.  They have witnessed shocking events and they are traumatized.

The Gospel lesson for the Third Sunday of Easter (22 April), Luke 24:36-48, presents a powerful peek into their chrysalis.  They are startled, frightened and terrified—BECAUSE Jesus is standing there with them.

They had a clear set of expectations of what it meant for Jesus to be the Messiah; namely, that Jesus would not die.  When Jesus does, something profound and deep dies within them.  They understand who THEY are in the context of their theological beliefs.  Jesus’ death is not just a “theological” death for them; it is a traumatic death of a core of their communal and personal identity.

My favorite phrase in the reading is, “while in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.”  At this point, however, it is perhaps important to remember:

Courage is not the absence of fear; courage is the strength we find to guide us through our fears.  Faith is not the absence of doubt; faith is a place of uncertainty, wonder and mystery.  Joy is not simple happiness or giddiness; joy is a deep, quiet centeredness rooted in the awareness of Presence—it is not circumstantial, but an awareness that we are never alone, no matter our circumstance.

The disciples don’t know it, yet, but something essential has remained through the trauma of their metamorphosis…to be continued.

Read more http://whereheartandmindmeet.ccuccatl.com/2012/05/03/chrysalis-crater-and-crypt-part-i/

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