Posts Tagged ‘and dust to dust’

Why This Smear of Ash?

Ash smear

Why This Smear of Ash?

Ashes to ashes.  From the dust do we come and to the dust shall we all return.  No matter how far along the road we get, Ash Wednesday reminds us that we all have a common starting point on this earth, and a common ending point.  These bodies are made from the dust of the earth, and one day these bodies will be returned to their lender.  It still freaks me out a little bit to be reminded that house dust is mostly dried skin, our flesh carried off by the wind only to find a new home in the television vents and strewn across the coffee tables and dresser tops.  It is a healthy reminder of just how insignificant we are…and how fleeting and fragile this life is.  The paradox of insignificance…the crazy incongruity of being nothing and yet being treasure.  In and of ourselves, we are dust and ash.  Yet, connected to something inexplicably bigger, we are also breath and all that goes with it.

It is likely that today you will see a dark smear of ash on the foreheads of some of our neighbors, a reminder of what we are without that something that gives us breath…that something that gives us hope in the reality of the dust from which we are made and to which we shall return.  Why has the God of Love chosen to form us from the earth and to number our days? Why must what begins here also end here among broken hearts and broken things?

Today, I do not have an answer.  But as I look at the black smear of ashes on the foreheads of so many people seeking answers to so many unanswerable questions and solace for so many still-open wounds, I am compelled to think on these things.  What are we really if we are truly more than the sum total of our carbon matter and firing synapses?  Do we really belong merely to the earth from whence we come, or is there more that we come from than dust and water? And what about the breath?  What about the love? How do we explain the love and the hurt and the joy?  Where do those come from, and what do we owe their author for visiting them upon us? I have never seen a tree weep at the loss of another tree.  Outside of poetry, I have never heard a wheat field roar with laughter.  And I have never seen a mountain lay down its life for another mountain. Of what are these?  Surely these will not return to the earth because it is not from the earth that they have clawed their way into us.  What ends must end.  There is no changing that.  But sometimes I think that end must be real in order for all that has led up to that end to have real meaning.  Without claiming our beginning AND our end, can we really claim that anything that we choose or experience between those two banal commonalities really matters at all?  Ashes to ashes.  From the dust do we come…or do we? I will dwell on that…today.