I couldn’t find my passport yesterday. Technically, Nathan couldn’t find his first. We’re traveling to British Columbia this afternoon for a conference and while getting ready Nathan realized he didn’t know where his passport was. I all but rolled my eyes at him as he searched from room to room; how careless of him! Of course his searching prompted me to lay eyes on my own just to be sure, and sure enough it wasn’t where I thought it was, either. So I began discreetly looking for my own passport under the pretense of helping him find his. Which is my least favorite thing in the world, looking for something I’ve lost. Or perhaps it’s just the losing. Elizabeth Bishop called it an art, one not “hard to master.” Her poem One Art catalogues a list of things from keys to an “hour badly spent” to names and whole continents which so “seem filled with the intent/ to be lost that their loss is no disaster.” I’m not convinced. There’s nothing so disastrous to me as not being able to put my hands on something which I know must be hiding just beneath another pile of magazines or in the back of some unopened drawer. Thomas, it seems, is not convinced either. In the story we tell every year on the Sunday after Easter he can’t believe that all the other disciples have laid their eyes upon their recently deceased friend and teacher and he has not; and who can blame him? The first loss was traumatic enough, and now they would arrest his grief, also? Death is like this. Many of the familiar habits which were tied to a beloved now gone still reach out into the world like phantom limbs: picking up the phone a moment before realizing they will not, discovering mementos of their presence like detritus washing up on shore. When Thomas says, “until I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my hand into his side I will not believe,” I imagine him having a moment like this, casting about the house for something which was here just a moment ago but is now gone. All the others seem to have found it already. The other disciples have their ticket, ready to go, ready to embark on some new journey where now life is death and death is life and here’s Thomas with everything lost, about to get left behind. It seems that more than proof, Thomas only wants to touch what is real. What a relief when you finally open the right drawer and find what had been missing. All the flurry melting into foolishness, the sudden sense that of course it had been waiting there all along. The future changes suddenly from a dire one where everything goes wrong to one where maybe fate will cut you some slack after all.
Nathan’s passport happened to be in a box where I had mistakenly packed it away with some other things. Mine was only in an unkempt room. Holding it, I couldn’t help but think how made up it was, how unreal. Here was a piece of paper I’d been desperate to find because it proves to some person guarding some border that I belong somewhere. A belonging and a border and a piece of paper which are each essentially made up, agreed upon by enough people with enough power to make them somehow real. Most of us find that we are drawn to something more real than that. Many of us share community with those not so lucky as to find themselves in possession of such magical papers. When the government says, “unless I see the papers which prove it I refuse to believe these people belong here,” we say, “we know their belonging is real, it is rooted in our family, in this community, in this land, as much as anyone’s.” But that does not seem to be enough for the powers of the world. The people of the world, like Thomas, long to touch what is real, but we are sold imaginary substitutes instead: false securities, mistaken enemies, half truths. We cast about in search of some missing solution to a problem we did not invent. One side says, “love would remake the world entirely.” Another side says, “prove it.” Proof, in that case, means losing many of the things the world instructs us to hold dear. Unjust laws, dishonest wealth, arbitrary lines between us and them. In the Resurrection each disappears like misplaced keys or a name not easily remembered. What remains to be found? God, having been waiting there all along to show us.