Posted by: dacalu | 11 April 2018

The Original Easter Egg

Last week I went to see Ready Player One. I delighted in the escapism and the eighties nostalgia.  Coming out when it did, it got me thinking about Easter eggs, both religious and virtual.

For those of you who are not gamers, an “Easter egg” is a secret feature of a video game. The first Easter egg appeared in the Atari 2600 game Adventure. Atari chose not to share information about designers, but Warren Robinett left a clue for truly adventurous players. If they found the hidden “gray dot” and carried to a specific location, they could enter a bonus room discover his name.

Easter eggs became a popular feature in video games, often revealing inside jokes, special clues, and even whole new levels. (I’m particularly fond of rat man’s hiding places in Portal.) In addition to the countless Easter eggs that practically define Ready Player One (movie and book), there is a special one that drives the plot.

 
 

Spoiler Alert – If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book…

 
 

Our hero, Parzival, receives a solitary quarter by winning a bet. Deep in virtual reality – in a game within a game – when all seems lost at the very end, Parzival redeems the coin. It is the ultimate Easter egg and it earns the name honestly; it brings Parzival back from the dead.

Christians will find a great deal to talk about in the movie, both good and bad. It involves community, real-life relationships, and genuine sacrifice for others. It also has inequality, power, and vain-glory. But I’ll leave all that aside for one central message.

Just as Ready Player One earns the title of true Easter egg, through a bonus life, so it can be a great metaphor for Christian resurrection. Too many of us, both Christians and non-Christians, complain that Jesus’ resurrection is inconsistent with the laws of physics. It breaks the rules.

I do not think this is true. Nor do I think most theologians do. No Christian denies the basic rules of the game. No one denies that humans die. We do not see them again in this lifetime. The Bible says it again and again. We are playing a game with very consistent rules.

Christians don’t claim the rules are different, only that they are incomplete. The designer has added Easter eggs: secret features, special clues, and hidden levels. And yes, there are even some wonderful inside jokes, when seen from the right perspective. The greatest Easter egg, the original Easter egg, appeared when Jesus of Nazareth died at the hands of humanity, a perfect witness to unfailing love in the face of hate. Death did not end him, his quest, or his significance. (“Death shall have no dominion.”) Jesus returned to the game of life. And in that moment, Christians say, the game suddenly took on a whole new meaning.

The rules still apply. We live and die.  And yet, by falling into that unfailing love – by acting in ways that seem pointless or even foolish – we level up. The game can be played differently. Christians believe in extra lives, not in place of the rules, but in addition to them.

Many will say that the game doesn’t work this way. These specific Easter eggs don’t exist.  I can respect that. What I cannot respect – what makes no sense – is the idea that a game cannot have Easter eggs…or that we are in a game so boring and predictable that we understand all the rules – flawlessly.

Relativity was an Easter egg. Quantum mechanics was an Easter egg. The history of science is nothing but a long series of inside jokes, secret rules, and hidden laws. We know that we do not know. And so, we go around bumping into walls and looking in dark places and trying new things, sometimes pointless and foolish. 99 times out of 100 it pays to follow the rules you know. Every once in a while, it pays to disbelieve, just for a moment.

The story of resurrection is not just about belief. Nor should it be believed without question. Jesus’ resurrection is also about disbelief, a willingness to accept that the rules we know are just a piece of a greater quest – a more satisfying, deeper, and more bizarre game than we knew.  Curiouser and curiouser.

The Christian story claims that this reality is nothing more than level 1. We learn the rules because they will be necessary for what is to come. But we must never lose hope that somewhere, somehow, through the pointless and foolish moments of playing the game, we will discover a secret room (or two…) and learn the name of our Creator.

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