9 March 2011. Ash Wednesday
"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
So said the priest tonight in the service, as he made the sign of the cross in ash and oil on the foreheads of the parishioners. It's one of those quiet, subdued, somber services, though nothing like Maundy Thursday. That's a ways off yet.
Here at the gate of Lent we meditate on our mortality. Father Steve made a number of points as to why this practice has a certain wisdom to it: appreciation, perspective, motivation. Of course, the idea came up of how to live day to day. I've always struggled with that somewhat. We hear all the time in songs and see all the time on posters or mugs or trendy shopping bags that we should live each day as though it were our last.
If I did that, I wouldn't get up and go to work tomorrow. And if the world didn't end, I would go broke and my family would starve. So this advice seems kind of absurd.
And so it was refreshing when Father Steve spoke to exactly that. We can't just ignore our responsibilities - we have to do what we have to do, and we have to assume that we're going to wake up tomorrow. But rather than decide what we are going to do today, perhaps it's more poignant to decide who we are going to be today. Because we can choose to change that, even drastically, without compromising the future that, in all likelihood, really does lay before us. We can get up and go to work and use a patience we didn't use yesterday. We can think of how to win an enemy over instead of how to strike back. We can be different people in the same places and doing the same things, and it will matter. And others will remember.
I propose a shift in the cliche. We can't live each day as though it were our last. But we can try to live each day as though it were the only one anyone would remember, and I imagine that if we could do that, we wouldn't go far wrong.
I know, I know. Easier said...