Is Jesus a man or a thing? I recall some religious conflict about this. First the Crusades, then I remember something about croissants, they pose a threat to Christendom, but that was centuries ago. Now all Parisians are Catholic. I am Catholic. There is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Three things together are stable and strong. Look at the tripod. The tripod is stable and strong. Three people together are not stable or strong. It’s the wrong number of people. One of the people is always left out, or the left out person alternates. Sometimes one person is left out; sometimes another person is left out. One of the people is never left out. That person is God. A tripod can’t be made out of people. It won’t hold together. A tripod can be made of three things, or a tripod can be made of one person. Of course a dead person is a thing. One dead person cannot make a tripod; three dead people, or things, make a tripod. Is it the deadness of Jesus that was in question? After the scourging, after the nailing of the wrists to the patibulum, Jesus died faster than anyone expected. He cried out and the soldier pierced his side and he spurted blood and water and Luke, the doctor, couldn’t find a heartbeat, and Jesus no longer breathed. Now people talk about the brain. Death does not occur in the heart or the lungs. Death is not not beating, not not breathing. Death is the irreversible cessation of activity in the brain, but in the case of Jesus the cessation was reversed. He stood up in the grave. He came out of the grave. He couldn’t have spoken to Mary and Thomas without the use of his brain, or climbed the mountain in Galilee, or gone swimming in the Sea of Tiberias. Jesus used his brain when he came out of the grave, not immediately after, but shortly after. The cessation of activity in Jesus’ brain turned out to be reversible, and so he did not die. He was never dead according to modern medical standards. Of course, it is proleptic to use modern medical standards when discussing the death of Jesus. Are religious conflicts fought over prolepses? Prolepses are not tangible, like croissants. Could prolepses mobilize the children of France to march on Jerusalem? No, I don’t think so. My father lost control of the right side of his body, and of language. We would never claim that he has died—half of his brain still functions—but there is no speaking, climbing, or swimming anymore for my father. He can eat a little broiled fish and honeycomb. He can move his tongue. His heart beats. He breathes. He sits in his chair facing the sliding doors through which he watches the birds come to the feeder. He is necessarily left out of decision-making processes, leaving my brother, my mother, and me to decide how best to support him. The worst is when we startle the birds and my father sits watching the empty feeder, the bare porch railing and tree limbs—the doubt in his eyes.
Joanna Ruocco co-edits Birkensnake, a fiction journal, with Brian Conn. She is the author of The Mothering Coven (Ellipsis Press), Man’s Companions (Tarpaulin Sky Press), A Compendium of Domestic Incidents (Noemi Press), and Another Governess / The Least Blacksmith: A Diptych (FC2). Her most recent book, Dan, was just released by Dorothy, a Publishing Project.