Our Town: Understanding the meaning of Easter


The mind of a child is simple and sweet.

At Easter time they hope for large quantities of jelly beans and a large chocolate Easter bunny.

They’re not concerned with either cavities or calories. This is how it should be.

When I was a kid I recall how much I loved Easter. My diligent and ever loving mother would make sure that each of her five children had a pretty colored Easter basket that was filled with that fake green cellophane grass, jelly beans, yellow marshmallow chicks and a solid chocolate Easter Bunny.

I still remember how important it was for me to get the solid bunny rather than the hollow kind which was lighter and had less chocolate.

Such are the dimensions and concerns of childhood.  We even had our Easter egg hunt to enjoy thanks to my mother’s efforts at boiling the eggs, painting them and then hiding them.

All in all it was always a fun holiday used to mark the onset of spring and warmer weather.

But as we age our dimensions deepen as do our concerns.

During our later years adults may enjoy an occasional treat but our appetite for joy, pleasure and fun grows more complex.

Over the years we inevitably become aware of the need to find meaning in things and some of us even become burdened by troublesome existential questions like  why are we hear and what is our purpose.

I find that all of these more complex questions often emerge during holiday times like Easter or Passover.

But how does one breakthrough the outer shell of Easter and find its inner meaning?

Most adults understand that the Easter bunny and Easter eggs are ancient symbols of fertility which express the coming of spring following the dark barren days of winter.

But being a psychoanalyst I am ever greedy for insight into things and so I seek to know more about this holiday.

If you are a loyal reader you will recall that I have been writing about meditation and that as recently as last month I went to a Quaker meeting at Westbury Friend’s Meeting House where their form of Sunday worship is to sit silently for an hour and await the voice of God to come to them. And every now and then someone is moved to stand up and speak about something spiritual.

This would surely be my ticket into some Easter insight.

So off I went again, took my seat among the silent sitters and waited for the voice of God to come to me.

Well for the first 15 minutes I became aware to the sounds of happy birds chirping in the trees above the cemetery right outside the meeting room. The bird songs were in a competition with the sounds of cars roaring by on Northern State. The birds eventually won out in this little competition.  After 15 minutes of listening to the birds, these sounds lose their luster.

I began to desperately wish that someone would stand up and say something to break the boredom.

I knew I didn’t have much to say so I knew it was not going to be me.

The minutes kept ticking away and then I swear I heard the sound of Ben Stein in the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off calling out “Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?…( this goes on for sixteen times in the film.)

At last my meditation was getting somewhere! Okay it was not the voice of God but at least I now had someone to listen to.

You may recall this wonderful teen comedy film which was released in 1986 and directed by John Hughes the king of teen comedy.

Hughes directed masterpieces such as “Pretty in Pink,” “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” “Home Alone” and “Breakfast Club.”

“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” was a John Hughes love letter to the city of Chicago and launched Matthew Broderick’s career.

The plot was about a day in the life of the incredibly cool and likable teenage slacker Ferris Bueller played by Matthew Broderick.

Ferris decided it was too nice a day to waste in school and he talked his friends Cameron Frye and Sloane Peterson into taking an excursion through Chicago.

They spent the day driving Cameron’s father’s vintage Ferrari, visiting the Art Institute of Chicago, the Sears Tower, Wrigley Field and topped it off by getting on a float in the Von Steuben Day parade and singing the Wayne Newton version of the song “Danke Schoen.”

Towards the end of the film Ferris breaks the fourth wall, looks directly at the camera and says a line that is now considered one of the greatest movie quotes of all time.

With a wry smile Ferris Bueller says “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Now granted this probably is not the word of God but its good enough for me.  I am a believer in the wisdom of writers and actors and artists.

This film was in 1986 as the nation was buzzing rapidly along the unmerry road of overwork, anxiety, depletion and more overwork; Ferris Bueller’s words are both wise and meaningful.

As for me I think that religious holidays like Easter give me a chance to pause and take a moment to dive into the Spiritus Mundi and return with a message.

In this case the message is a simple one.

Take time to smell the flowers, enjoy what there is to see and do   and if you don’t you could miss it.

So thank you John Hughes for producing such joyful and funny and wise films.

May you rest in peace.


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