Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ashes, Ashes

Lent arrives in the dregs of winter. It's a desert time -- threadbare, cold, grayscale and fading sepia. The world, it seems, has become a windswept, abandoned nursery or an ill-curtained window, open onto blank, white air.

Night falls. Lights streak the windscreen of the bus like blood splatter.

Where is there warmth in this desert ? Where comfort and solace ? There are the usual temptations. Bread. Power. Miracles. I fall asleep thinking of breakfast. I slip into my white coat and intone, "Eat these." I think of death and imagine that something, something ex machina, will arrive at the last moment and bail me out. A redeemer, maybe ?

Live without appeal, appealed the philosopher. Endure. Be brave. Resist.

I think, as I often do "X has been dead for 4 years." I posit this against eternity, and feel faint. So little of the sentence served, such an excruciatingly long stretch ahead. But death kills human time, which is as mortal as a brain. It seems like an important teaching that I haven't quite fully grasped. I consider the time before my birth. I feel no dread, no grief. I consider (pressing my mind's exposure/focus lock button) the time after my death. For an instant, no dread, no grief. Then my finger slips. Fearsome darkness swamps the viewfinder.


Suddenly I find myself thinking of original sin. On the one hand a distant God, issuing dicta from the distant halls of eternity. On the other hand, corrupt human flesh.

Thou shalt. Thou shalt not.

Yes, sir. No, sir. Please sir, not that, sir.

But then I remember the famous twist in the narrative, the switch in the metaphor. God within flesh ? What an immaculate, new concept ! Truly radical ! And with it, all those volumes of thou shalls and thou shalts reduced to two imperatives -- love God, love each other. Which, even further refined, becomes Love.

Yes, yes, I reply, impatiently, Doing's all well and good.

But what about Being ?

(The teacher smiles and shakes his head. Such an obtuse pupil !)

And, as always, the answer seems to flicker just beyond the limits of the blood-smeared, God-infused desert.

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