Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the Cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. — BCP (Book of Common Prayer)
By Guion Pratt
Listen, something’s come up. I can’t come to your party this weekend. In fact, I’m probably not partying anytime soon. I’m gonna stay home. Gonna bake some bread. Yeah, that’s it, that’s me now: the breadmaker! Got my milligram-sensitive kitchen scale, my jars of flours arranged neatly on the counter beside the Danish dough whisk and stainless mixing bowl. You know what? This is fine. This is going to be OK. Maybe this virus is just what the world needs to discover simple pleasures again. I might even be (can I say this?) thriving!
This domestic energy was all the rage at the beginning, wasn’t it (that is, among those whose jobs and lives afforded them the ability to stay at home)? The virus could take our lives, and OK, our freedom, too, but it couldn’t take our nesting. Disorder reigned out there, but in here, determined to make the best of it, things were looking bright. Tidy. Purposeful in a way they maybe hadn’t been when the pressure wasn’t so on. Those on the internet self-appointed to track “vibes” gave a name to this collective defiance of apocalypse: #cottagecore, the cultivation of order in the midst of so much chaos.
And it worked! For a little while at least. Fast forward two years. I’m willing to bet that an inch-thick layer of black water has separated itself from the rest of your jar of sourdough starter, neglected and mutating in the fridge. That fitness room they added at the office just before the pandemic hit is now home to an unplugged kegerator and a bunch of arcade games, a space so relatable it haunts your dreams (at least when you forget to take your weed gummy at night and you actually have dreams). We used to make our own pizza dough with Italian tipo 00 flour; now we order Dominos and don’t really get too bothered when it stains the couch. Because, like, who is ever going to see that couch again anyway? Somewhere along the way, #cottagecore gave way to something else: Welcome to #goblinmode.
From The Guardian last month:
“‘Goblin mode is like when you wake up at 2am and shuffle into the kitchen wearing nothing but a long T-shirt to make a weird snack, like melted cheese on saltines,’ he said. ‘It’s about a complete lack of aesthetic…the complete opposite of trying to better yourself.’”
Call it a “vibe shift” if you like. I think that’s too generous. We want to think we’re cottage at our core; deep down we know the truth. We’ve always been goblin to the bone.
Tale as old as time, right? Year: ~33 AD. Jerusalem is, to put it mildly, a heavy drag. Then Jesus rolls into town, and my dudes, the people are stoked. They lay down a bunch of palms on the road in front of him. They get their act together and write him a theme song they chant as he comes through like it’s the WWE. You know what? Maybe this is gonna be OK! We’re gonna thrive. All we needed was a little optimism! Smooth sailing from here!
Of course we know the end of the story. The whole town is about to go goblin mode on Jesus in a matter of days. They’re ready to elect the robber and hang the Messiah, just to see what it looks like when all of it really does burn.
Arguably my favorite instance of goblin mode in the gospels is the woman who breaks a fancy vase full of expensive perfume and just absolutely soaks Jesus at a gathering. And he loves it. He rebukes the decorous onlookers with a line I really want to try the next time someone spills a drink on me: “She’s preparing my body for burial.” Goblin mode, baby.
Because as always, Jesus beats us to the punch. The way up is down. Rather than meeting our “total lack of aesthetic” with a 12-step plan to attain permanent cottagecore nirvana, he continually one-ups us in the goblin direction. Born in a feed trough. Sees you’re running out of wine at this wedding; fixes that for you. Parties with sex workers. Rides into his own parade on a donkey. Sucks hot sour wine from a sponge (honestly, relatable). Dies on a cross.
The way of the cross is not an ordering of life but a disordering; a complete collapse of power, control, function. We like to look at Christ’s death on the cross as a reversal of expectations, a savior whose methods subvert the powers and currencies of this world. But to accept this is to mistake our facades of power and might for some core truth about ourselves and our world. When the crowd goblins up on Jesus, yelling, “Crucify him!,” they aren’t possessed or out of character as we’d like to imagine. This is why the congregational role in the Passion play at church during Holy Week feels so convicting; no other perspective is more truly us. If there’s a lesson in the last two years of collective backsliding from cottage core into “the complete opposite of trying to better ourselves,” it’s that a flailing powerlessness is the resting state of the human condition. And in spite of it all, Christ loves our hopeless little goblin hearts.
To quote at length the passage from Phillipians my brother referenced in yesterday’s post here, Jesus:
“who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.” —Philippians 2:5-8, NRSV
To save a goblin, gotta become one.
–Guion Pratt lives in Charlottesville, VA