Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live for 2,000 years? Rachel Sussman profiles 30 representative species in her book The Oldest Living Things in the World, continuously living organisms that are 2,000 years old and older. Sussman traveled to some extreme environments for her photos, showing us lichens in Greenland growing one centimeter every 100 years, unique desert shrubs in Africa and South America, and a grove of 80,000 year old aspen trees in Utah. Illustrated by art and informed by science, Sussman’s book mediates on resilience and what threatens it. As reviewer Maria Popova writes, Sussman’s stories are “a gentle reminder that life, for us as much as for those ancient organisms, is often about withstanding the uncontrollable, unpredictable, and unwelcome curveballs the universe throws our way, and that resilience comes from the dignity and humility of that withstanding.”
Some of Sussman’s representatives have died since the photos were made. Like us and the life around us, everything is in the process of being born, living, and dying, often in ways shameful or stupid. Yet some are resurrecting.
When you think about your faith, how does it help you be resilient, even if we acknowledge that nothing is permanent? My faith starts with the story of a man’s shameful death and surprising resurrection. So far, Jesus’s story has survived for a bit more than the 2,000 year minimum for Sussman’s subjects. The feast of Easter, which began on Easter Sunday and runs the 50 days until Pentecost, proclaims the story and challenges us with its implications. The women who came to Jesus’s tomb to anoint the body of their friend and master on the first Easter morning were falling back on a ritual of their time, only to have their ritual shattered by the reality of the tomb’s emptiness. Out of their surprise and fear, they and the other disciples found Jesus and clung to him, in the breaking of bread, the hearing of his words, and the witnessing of his presence in and with each other.
Jesus’s story affects everyone differently, as saints, sinners, and atheists are quick to demonstrate. For me, the Easter story is not a one-and-done acceptance. I try to keep my faith in Jesus’s story supple by circling back to it, framing it with the tasks and relationships that make up my days. I dive into it when I’m in trouble, or when death comes to someone close to me. I experience my doubts about its physicality. I rejoice in the work I see it doing in people all around me.
Often, our family and friends end Easter Sunday and begin our Easter season celebration with confetti eggs. In the weeks preceding the feast, we eat a lot of quiche at our house as we drain and dye eggshells, replacing their whites and yolks with stuffed confetti. After Easter dinner, we treat our guests to a mad scramble, where they take the brilliantly colored eggs from the basket on the dining room table and break them open in each other’s hair on the front lawn! To passersby, we must look silly as the Apostles did on Pentecost, when onlookers scoffed that they were drunk on new wine. But still we run towards each other with love and joy, breaking the eggs and sharing the confetti in a way that leaves everyone smiling long after the eggshells are composting the lawn. In their passing, I like to think the confetti eggs serve a greater purpose than if they had remained uncrushed, forgotten or hidden in their basket.