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  • Writer's pictureJoia

Today's rhaps is on ... Epiphany

Updated: Nov 23, 2023

Ethel Vrana, Epiphany, c 2011

Years ago I heard a sermon on Epiphany, about the crippled man lowered through the roof to the indoor crowd surrounding the Son of God. It was impossible to get through the lines of people outside the door.

"Do you want to be saved or healed?" the Christ asked the Cripple. (Such a rude question! I've always thought.)

The episcopal priest telling the story this January Sunday talked about how one would die if left out in the desert alone. Life means community.

I liked this priest because he knew my name and would say, 'Joia you are loved' when handing me the Eucharist wafer. Later a divided church congregation threw him out, but at the time I went to the cathedral in Minneapolis because it looked like Europe and the choir sang Bach and Mendelssohn.

​I do understand—from friends, literature, film—that loving and trusting are meant to go together. That intimacy is supposed to bind partners and family in this embrace of confidence, this daily expectation of loyalty. In some cultures, like Portugal and Russia, the circle of trust is so small against the harsh system that only family and a few tried 'n' true souls get through. In other cultures, like the Anglo nordic ones, the individual self is supposed to be so strong that recognizing the trustworthy ones is a kind of 'clear and convincing' personal exercise.

Them and Us accordingly shape-shift depending on the culture or identity group. They also vary according to biographical detail, specifically of refugee torture or any kind of bodily abuse. Once the allegedly trustworthy give you up, though, it's a long road back to cooking and caring in a shared space—nevermind actually sleeping.

Every so often I watch romantic comedies to see this behavior in our species, as if falling-in-love were as natural as survival and lust. I marvel over this ability to lock limbs and trust, especially when sober. I could never manage it without the fortification and pretense of liquor and fantasy.

After two years of isolation, with a good portion of the planet denying the relevance of viruses and immune status, I'm left with an odd sense of community. Disability and mobility dictate that I can no longer live independently, but a lifetime of cultural code-switching has made me a kind of emotional mutant, or at least badly mute at the wrong moments.

But I did finally have an epiphany:

Saved or healed?

Doesn't matter!

It doesn't matter if you can walk if you are without community.

Either way, you will not survive if you're out there in the desert alone.

Time for a new path, a hole in the roof, a passageway back to the future.


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