I Am Lazarus: a dramatic reading by Newton & Larry Holt

I

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” – Romans 5:12

It didn’t have to be this way. God’s creation was perfect, but the moment they bit into the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve set the course for death.

Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died. The Bible doesn’t mention how old Eve lived to be, but we know that she met the same end at some point. Their son, Seth, lived to be 912 years old, and his son Enosh, 905. Both of them, like their fathers before them, would not live forever.

I sometimes imagine Adam and Eve, living with their sons outside of the garden. They knew that their sin would reap pain; they had felt it already, having been separated from God. They were even familiar with death, having been clothed in the skin of animals to cover their shame. But hauntingly they knew, one day in the future they too would die. They just didn’t know yet how that would feel or how it would look.

That was until they discovered the body of their precious son Abel, struck down and bloodied by his own brother. In that moment, they saw the reality of death, and grasped exactly what it meant.

For the first time in history, the blood of man had been spilt. And this is what it looked like. Motionless. Cold. Mothers standing over children, and children over mothers. And as Abel’s blood cried out for vengeance, promising even more pain and suffering down the long road ahead, his parents had same thought that I did when first confronted with the consequences of my sin.

Oh, my God, what have I done?

II

“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” – Isaiah 64:6

Abel was the first man to die, but there must also be a last. There will be a final breath beyond final breaths, and now I wait patiently for that day.

I am Lazarus, dead in the grave.

I sank in the mud the moment I was born, and all of my thrashing only dug me deeper. My labor left me in ruin, and even my best efforts became the grave clothes that now bind me. They dressed me in the uniform of the tomb and threw me away from their sight.

I know there is far more than stone and dirt above me. My shoulders ache with the weight of my transgressions. I deserve to sleep in this grave like Adam and Enosh before me. It was I who tasted the forbidden fruit, and I who struck down my brother. I listened to the serpent, and at times I played the part myself.

But there must be more than this. Adam came from dust, but there must be more to the story than just returning to that state. My dry bones scream out for new life.

I believe that one day, my name will be called by someone capable of defeating death, and who has promised life. He will shout “Lazarus, come out!” And I will joyfully obey. My bones will crack back into place, and I will dance out of that newly opened tomb. The grave clothes they dressed me in will be torn off, and the sins that have weighed me down will stay in the pit behind me.

On that day, death will become just a memory and my Rescuer will be exalted.

I wait patiently for that day.

III

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” – Psalm 22:1

I thought I knew what rescue would look like. I thought I grasped freedom, and I knew that freedom would look like victory, not crucifixion. So as we saw our Savior dragged through the streets under the weight of a tree that He himself had designed, we still believed that somehow this day would end with broken chains. Instead, it ended with a broken people. When the darkness and earthquakes fell, and He used his final breaths to gasp out that it is finished, we knew in our hearts that He was right.

Imagine the defeated posture of a people who witness their Creator nailed to His own creation by His own creation. In their faces, you’d see betrayal, suffering, and the fear that maybe death is unbeatable after all. If even the Christ could be forsaken by God, what will happen to us?

The man who dared to promise life had it taken from Him.

They pried Him from the cross and put Him in the grave. The One I was counting on to call me out by name is now buried beside me.

Altogether, Jesus Christ lived 33 years. And then He died.

IV

For the first time in history, the blood of God had been spilt. And this is what it looks like. Motionless. Cold. Children standing over Fathers, and Fathers forsaking their children.

And we are to blame for it. If not for our sin…if not for MY sin, He wouldn’t have to die. But we can’t go back.

As we watched Him breath final breaths, I shared a thought with all who watched, the same that all think when confronted with the very real consequences of their sin.

“Oh, my God and Father, what have we done?” His blood for mine. His death for mine. But now what?

In darkness and in silence, I wait.

V

EASTER

I am Lazarus, dead in the grave. I sank in the mud the moment I was born, and all of my life I have waited for someone to pull me out.

Altogether, Jesus Christ lived 33 years. And then He died.

And then…

He rose.

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On the Internet: An Essay

I illegally stream the director’s cut of Watchmen on my laptop and stop it halfway through, deciding instead to google Rorschach blots and psychologically evaluate myself. This reminds me of blood splatter, and soon I’m an expert on the JFK assassination and the Zapruder film. The webpage on Kennedy’s legacy leads me to the Wikipedia article on First Ladies, where I’m delighted to discover three of the first four first ladies were named Martha, which reminds me of Superman. I google the character and realize that he was created by two Jewish artists at a time they felt powerless as a culture amidst mass global tragedy. And because they felt weak, they projected their vision of hope onto a god.

I’m a god. At my fingertips I can order some well-cooked chard or purchase a well in Chad. With a couple of eloquently-worded messages, I could save a life or prompt someone to end theirs. I do all of this without even having to change out of the silky Perry Ellis boxer shorts I had Amazon-drone-shipped to my doorstep this morning, a package I didn’t even have to stand to receive because I Craigslisted a homeless man browsing a local library’s internet to come to my abode and carry the box from the front porch to my basement recliner in exchange for a couple of bucks and a can of Coke. While I marvel my power to purchase at will a keychain made of Capuchin monkey testicles or capsules banned in most industrialized countries that’ll dye my urine neon blue, I hear my grandpa in the other room complaining about how kids these days don’t connect with each other because of the internet. In angered opposition, I imagine myself creating a fake Facebook account posing as his deceased wife manifesting herself through lines of code and trying to connect with him like the first act of a Demi Moore movie. I don’t catfish my grandfather, but I find a fair amount of satisfaction in the fact that I could. I could do anything. I’m a superman.

I’m on YouTube now; I stumble across a teenager posting his first video singing a jazzy cover of an already lackluster Black Keys tune. He’s off-key, even by YouTube standards, and a strange subdivision of my subconscious begins screaming:

“The world has seven billion people on it, and even if only 5% of them are musicians, there are still 350 million people fighting for the same shot of relevance as you. And if you can’t be better than the thirty other singers on your college campus, what makes you think you’ll survive one second out there with the sharks? Actually, screw that. They don’t need to be sharks to kill you. There are 350 million minnows crammed into a puddle! Attrition will do the job, because if you can’t be a better singer than Sandy the sophomore Psych major, then any confidence that you could stand toe-to-toe with anyone of note should be Styrofoam crushed under the tiniest weight of reality caving in around you!”

My comment is lost in the sea of similarly-worded messages. Annoyed and bored, I open up a new tab and starting googling blank canvases. I imagine at some point an old cleric angrily mumbling at his grandson spending all of his time painting instead of praying. And then the grandson would find another painter, and they would share canvases and find comfort in that sense of community. Then I picture a young Hermann Rorschach spilling a bucket of ink onto a canvas, splattering it around, and his friends would come up giggling and say, “Hey, you painted a penis!”

And Hermann Rorschach would say, “I have simply spilt ink, Jimmy, and the fact that you’ve projected the male anatomy onto an otherwise abstract collection of blots hints at your own insecurities. My blot is neither good nor evil; it simply is.”

“It simply is a penis.”

And then his friends would laugh and walk away while Rorschach scowled that his ignorant peers failed to understand the subjective nature of reality.

Because of this daydream, I find myself once again on the Hermann Rorschach Wikipedia page and note how similar he looks to acclaimed actor Brad Pitt, specifically in the Tarantino film Inglourious Basterds, which takes place during World War II, and now I’m back on the page for Superman.

I open Google Earth and stare down at the ocean from miles above. Its vastness will never cease to amaze me, and I smile knowing that both Captain Nemo and Finding Nemo find their inspiration from the same interconnected waters. The same currents bounce the corpses of Titanic victims among swordfish and giant squid, and deep below the dark threshold of caverns our cameras cannot reach are dozens of monstrous beasts we have yet to see. The ocean feeds both dolphins and angler fish like the internet holds both adorable videos of cats just a few clicks and taps away from child pornography.

I take a look at my tabs and begin to count them. I have almost a dozen tightly-packed icons across the top of my browser, and written on each tab is the headline of the page that it represents. Three tabs of Facebook. One tab of Superman’s character biography and one open for each of his creators. One on the Holocaust, and one that connects to an African well-building charity. I’ve got a tab up on a couple of serial killers I had been researching earlier in the day and a YouTube video playing Josh Garrels’s Ulysses. The last tab open is the Google Doc I had opened earlier to take notes in my American History class.

I click on that and begin browsing through my transcript, contrasting events like the bombing of Nagasaki with the rise of Elvis Presley. It’s almost cyclical, the pattern of good things following bad ones. Again and again this happens, dark against light, black against white.

The charicature of old men scowling at their younger millennial counterparts for typing more words than they speak stems from the fact many outside of the people-connecting community of the WWW don’t seem understand that the internet is history. And though sometimes we as a species find ourselves trying to erase the past hour of our history—both metaphorical in the sense of events like Argentinian genocide and literally for some in the sense of porn— we cannot escape the fact that the internet simply exists to collectively compile everyone’s relative take on what has transpired. It collects documents from thousands of years ago and it saves the time you mistakenly clicked on coolmeth.com when looking for fun algebra-related trivia games. At the drop of a hat, one could poll the current emotional states from all of one’s friends with a simple IM of “hey how r u? ur not suicidal r u lol?” and this kind of instantaneous accessibility to knowledge intimidates many. Many folks tend to believe that constant and immediate gratification will condition new generations to have lower attention spans rather than teach them to utilize their time in a more efficient manner. Younger folks are too enamored with the positive outcomes one can receive from such a technology that they notice not the negative ramifications often intertwined with the responsibility of maintaining an online presence. Both sides of the spectrum have valid trepidations, as any one object could be used for either good or evil.

Take, for instance, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene from the 1966 Adam West Batman, in which the titular hero opens up a cabinet containing Whale-Repllent Bat Spray. Now, we can all imagine circumstances in which having this canister could save lives, such as if a flock of angry sperm whales begin harassing your nephew. In events such as these, having such a powerful weapon could be effective and in good taste. However, this very neutral spray could also be used to round up hundreds of baby belugas into a net to be delivered to Chum Incorporated. Almost anything could be used for heroic or nefarious purposes. The internet, an amalgam of literally everything, is no exception. It serves quite primarily as a means of connecting people, and since people are as varied as the tabs in my browser, that could mean connecting a Harvey Milk to an MLK, or it could mean bringing together Pol Pot and Jeffery Dahmer.

My computer dings. I receive a Facebook message from a friend wanting to meet me at the local Taco Bell in fifteen minutes. I ask my grandfather for permission, who willingly gives it glad that I’ll be connecting to people for the first time today. I bid adieu to the Swiss man I’d been chatting with online, turn off my computer, and go outside.

Dirty Clothes: An Essay

What could be more sacred than a floor of dirty clothes? Donned, worn, and discarded because we lived another day. Stained with the sauce of shared pizzas and diet coke; the sweat of our workouts and speeches and passions; the blood of our toiling; the oil of our Big Macs. All are absorbed into the fabrics like spaghetti sauce into the competing paper towel brand in those annoying commercials, or like the lyrics of “It’s Raining Men” into the brain of a six-year-old you let listen to it because you didn’t realize what it was about.

 

Sure, you may bleach your clothes white but you can never unstretch them. And you can’t put loose strands back in after you’ve pulled them out. The sweater you got in high school from an aunt who didn’t really know you and assumed you liked sweaters, which you didn’t but just wore anyway until it grew on you, and then you grew on it, until it was held together only by the webs of spiders who made their home for generations in that thing? Yeah, it’s gorgeous… Metaphorically speaking, of course— it’s actually technically hideous and you should stop wearing it to church. But it’s precious because while that sweater fell apart, you got married. And you got a dog. And you had a kid. And your wife left you for Hank Hanklesmop and he took her name, which is your name, but you don’t really blame them. And your house burned down and Better Off Ted got cancelled. But you got that promotion you wanted and Lisa Hanklesmop, Hank Hanklesmop’s ex-wife, proposed to you and you took her name to complete an oddly poetic cycle. That sweater was your witness, and without it, you would have been shirtless and never would have gotten that promotion.

My best friend has a blanket on her bed that she was wrapped in as a baby, and the fact that it’s faded is precisely why it’s important. It represents infant spit-up, drool over the newly released Nintendo Gamecube, and the future joyful tears after being proposed to. It’s dirty, in a way. It’s old. But it’s beautiful exactly because it lived long enough to acquire stains.

So all of your dirty clothes— leave them where they are on the floor. To clean them is to erase them from existence. But they existed, I insist it. So resist it no longer. You’re stronger having been chewed by moths and bled on like soiled socks.

And if your carpet doesn’t smell like bonfire smoke by now, then take my hand and a bottle of lighter fluid. Let’s escape into the foliage to pick up enough dead leaves to feign the years gone by. You should smell, by the end of the day, like your grandpa’s cigarette smoke, or the new car you just stole, or the baby you just stole. You should have mud and grass smeared across your jersey from the time you gave everything and dove across the threshold of the end-zone during your high school’s homecoming game. You should have a ring of red around the shoulder of your favorite graphic tee from that time you got shot saving a friend from an overzealous armed yeti.

We’re human, and we leave our mark by messing things up. The only way we know humans existed before Facebook and Johnny Carson is because they cut down trees and built temples with them, and blew up mountains to make highways.

I’m sick of being told that the only things that matter are the things that matter. So let’s embrace the things that don’t, like dirty clothes. Embrace the idea that they don’t represent laziness or shame. They are the embodiment of having lived another day.

LOL I’m just kidding I’ve just been watching a lot of Netflix and don’t want to clean up after myself.