“Why do you call yourself ‘Beloved’?”
“In the dark my name is Beloved.”
~Toni Morrison, Beloved.
Having begun with the redundancy of the cross, we arrived at the redundancy of life — life as redundancy. What are the implications of this?
Well, once we get over our dismay about not being a necessity for anyone or any thing, we can begin to understand that redundancy and superfluity point to excess. Excess is over-abundance. Over-abundance, far from being worthless, is a gift. Recognizing our lives as redundant does not lead us to conclude that they are meaningless. Rather, this recognition enables us to understand that our lives are gifts — crazy, excessive, unnecessary gifts — given to ourselves and to each other.
Living as gifts, and life as a gift, means that who we strive to be and what we strive to do may be entirely removed from the domain of duty — if we are not needed then we are not bound by duty. Instead, we are free. Free to be and do what we desire (and not what we “need”) to be and do. I am free to love my children not because I must (in which case I am not free to love them at all), but because I want to. I am free to be a gift to others and free to understand that every living redundant moment and deed is a beautiful gift to me as well.
This is the domain of grace. Dying to ourselves-as-necessities is a dying to any and every rule of law and a resurrection unto the anarchy of grace. The Law wants us to think of ourselves as necessities — we must be and do this or that, and if we do not be or do this or that, then it is appropriate for us to be disciplined and punished. As necessities we are enslaved. Furthermore, the logic maintained by this rule of law then meshes seamlessly with the logic of contemporary capitalism — as workers, we need to earn money in order to consume superfluous items that are sold to us as though they were necessities (You need this credit card to be free, you need this car to have a healthy family, you need this scent to be desired by the other sex, etc.). This is the central lie in all of it. We can see through part of it — at the end of the day, we know that we don’t really need a lot of these things — but few of us can see through the whole of it — that we, ourselves, are not needed.
However, when we embrace ourselves as redundant, we are liberated from the law and from wage-slavery (working-to-consume), or from any other imperative. Instead of obeying, working, and consuming, we are free to love and to be loved. We are free to be joyful. We are free to be gifts to one another and to our own selves. Everything becomes grace. All the way down.
This is the message of Easter. As I stated at the end of my Good Friday meditation:
God dies every day for (i.e. because of) the sins of the world. That is God’s way of being with us. The crazy message of Easter is that this dying is not futile. And if the dying of God is meaningful then perhaps our living-unto-death is also meaningful. Perhaps death is not the last word for us. Perhaps, like the cross of Christ, we are redundant but not without meaning.
Our living-unto-death is not without significance. We are redundant but not without meaning.
Hence, the resurrection of Jesus throws open the tomb of the living (which I mentioned at the end of my Holy Saturday post). The stone is now rolled away and all of us are free. Free to love. Free to be loved. Free to play. Free to rejoice. The grave has been thrown open. It is up to us to choose if we want to follow Jesus out of it.