// Roberto Bolano and chocolate eggs

A few weeks back i bought Roberto Bolano’s “The Savage Detectives” on the recommendation of a friend of mine. It’s a beautifully written book, witty and melancholy, the opening section describing the initiation of a young writer in a group who are known as the “visceral realists”. It’s also a book that describes, in brutal and frank detail, the dramatic (and frequently disastrous) sexual encounters of that young writer.

I gave up on it about seventy-five pages in.

Don’t get the impression that i’m squeamish about this stuff. Truth be told, studying an English degree i’ve had to read a lot of it over the past three years. But it’s also corrosive. So much of my degree has been focused on descriptions of ‘bad sex’ and flawed relationships, on making those mistakes so that you can know what you’re eventually looking for, and sure, it points back to an ideal, to the way things should be, but it gets inside your head. That focus on the desolation and emptiness of all our experiences in the face of eventual death makes it look ridiculous to imagine that an ideal for life, or love, is ever attainable, and even more ridiculous to hold out for that ideal. It makes experiences paramount, but it simultaneously makes them trivial. It comes down, at absolute base level, to nothing more than the frankness of bad sex that Roberto Bolano details – a world that is eventually about physicality, not transcendence, as none of us are getting out of here alive.

To “conform no longer to the pattern of this world”, as Paul put it in his letter to the Romans, means leaving behind that kind of cynicism and emptiness, and i can’t tell if that makes me a less exciting person. Certainly it makes me a happier person, although my heart is breaking in a million other ways, but being a Christian surely doesn’t mean disengaging from the culture altogether, just fighting that corrosiveness that strips away at happiness, love and hope. It means fighting the attitude that only sees the meaningless of the present moment in order to see things differently – to see this moment, this day, this life, as a gift of God’s grace; to see the vibrancy of the world that He has created; to see that life doesn’t necessarily need dramatic, Bolano-esque mistakes to make it of any value, as Christ’s death on that cross proves that you are already valuable enough to be worth dying for. The truth is that the desolation and the bleakness isn’t the only hope, and it’s not as though dreaming of something different makes you an idealist or someone who’s living in perpetual unreality. The task is working out how to live this life the way it’s supposed to be lived – that bizarre, surreal, seat-of-your-pants way of living that makes the brightest lives stand out.

To accept that living life God’s way sucks out all the vibrancy and joy of life is, in fact, conforming to the pattern of this world. Today is Easter Sunday, the day of resurrection, when death is revealed as being something other than just the end of all this and transcendence is again possible. That desolation, bleakness, emptiness – “the pattern of this world” – that they don’t win. That which was inevitably, unavoidably dead, is no longer so. Jesus is risen, and salvation is here, now, and suddenly, in a moment, everything has changed. All that you thought you knew, looked at in the light of what happened today, needs confronting and rethinking.

This is not just a transactional view of salvation, that says that what Jesus did was simply pay a price on a cross so that we can go to Heaven when we die – although yes, that is true, and that is a vital dimension of what happened. But it is also a sense that a new, transformed life, a ‘resurrection-life’, starts now. When the fear of death is removed, when the possibility of truly relishing the present moment is suddenly not ridiculous anymore. A lot of Christians, me included, aren’t always good at that, living in any kind of present moment at all. But it doesn’t have to be like that – we may have lost sight of it, but Easter Sunday reminds us that there is more going on here than we initially thought…

I gave up chocolate for Lent, and being able to break into an Easter egg this morning was a real joy. I had to smash it off my table – it was a Green & Black’s Easter egg, and it was ridiculously thick-shelled. It took four hits, to be precise. I have never given anything up for Lent before, and it was a hard thing to do – especially with chocolate. But coming back to it this morning was fantastic. It reminded me why I loved it in the first place, caused me to eat with a new relish, that i’d forgotten over the years… Whether it’s a fair comparison to say that the same is true of Easter remains to be seen, but i know what i think. That today encourages me to see the world with new eyes, to praise the God who created it and relish it apart from the stench of decay – to see this world, His creation, and His sacrifice, for just how incredible they truly are…

He is risen. Hallelujah indeed.

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