Today we hard-boiled 50 eggs for the kids to decorate later this evening. This seems excessive, yet we do this because it is our cultural tradition. The Easter Bunny is heading to town, with egg hunts sure to follow.

Throughout history eggs have held an almost sacred place in our lives. They are a source and symbol of new life. In almost all ancient cultures eggs were revered objects, beginning with the pagans who celebrated the rebirth of spring with eggs, then on into Christianity which morphed the egg into a symbol of resurrection.  There is an old Latin proverb: “Omne vivum ex ovo“. This means “all life comes from an egg”. 

Even so, we don’t revere the egg much anymore. Nowadays we revere other things  – fuel, electricity, plastic, money. It is difficult to thrive without an abundance of these new things. I definitely don’t need or want 50 eggs in my day-to-day life. But my husband must drive his car 50 miles to work each day. Our family watches 50 minutes of television most nights. And our trash cans overflow with the waste of at least 50 discarded items that we’ve used and abused throughout a typical day or two.

The fact that we throw our trash out and then forget all about it is inevitable. We have places to go, people to see, eggs to dye! Yet one man doesn’t want to let us do this. Viktor Muniz is a Brazilian artist who uses real-world objects in his photography and paintings, like the picture above of a man surrounded by trash entitled ‘Death of Marat’, after David. Through his art, he is determined to show how deeply people are tied to the objects they rely on in their everyday lives. This picture was created after Muniz spent two years at the largest landfill in the world, Jardim Gramacho, outside of Rio de Janeiro, photographing the local catadores who collect recyclable materials to sell. The man in the photo is a trash collector.

Lucy Walker made a documentary of Muniz doing this called ‘Waste Land’, which highlights how little we revere all the stuff we now have. Most of it we do indeed use and abuse, then toss aside. By capturing the catadores surrounded by the massive mounds of garbage they must sift through each day, Walker and Muniz lay bare not only the staggering amount of refuse people create, but also the unfathomable amount of resilience and beauty found in people commonly regarded as disposable themselves. ‘

This holiday is not all about eggs. It’s about emerging from hardship and darkness with a new sense of light and hope. It’s about morphing fifty plain white eggs into colorful bites of art. It’s about taking a mound of trash and turning it into a thing of beauty.