Wednesday, February 22, 2012

You are dust and to dust you will return

English: Pleiades Star Cluster
Image via Wikipedia
These are the words many heard today as ashes were placed on their foreheads to mark the first day of Lent in Roman Catholic, Anglican and a few additional Protestant denominations today (the Orthodox Churches have slightly different calendars).

Lent is a period marked by introspection and penance, and its liturgy and prayers emphasize an awareness of mistakes and failings of the past year as well as a renewed attention on seeking and living a more substantial life. A focus on things beyond our own self-centered perspective and the instant gratification of our whims, an antidote to a myopic view that allows others to be less than precious fellow human beings in our economics and politics.

It is a recognition that the degrading and dehumanizing tendencies that plague humanity are still with us, and within us specifically. That we retain this capacity to become lost to ourselves and others. In a word, we remember the reality of sin.

The discussion of sin is highly unpopular in contemporary Western culture because of the rampant legalism in the Abrahamic traditions and its association with moral imperatives couched in what are often archaic sounding cultural norms. It is a term too often used not to heal and reconcile, as it can be, but rather to harm and condemn.

You are star dust, born in an age before the Earth was formed, an amazing and fearfully formed being with a potential to live in a way that few other species we know of can ever hope to experience. And to dust you will return. Take this opportunity reflect on what you plan to do with the time you have left, with what is worthy of such a being.
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