Paying Attention Bill McDonald’s
March 2018 - Volume 18, No. 3
Ashes, Roses & More Dead Children
- A Meditation on February 14, 2018 -
When I arrived in Florida, on February 13, one of the first things my host and I planned was to attend the following day Ash Wednesday noon service at her local Episcopal Church. For each of us, being of long comfort within Anglican spirituality, it was both timely and a spiritually natural thing to do. Somewhere I heard in the background a morning news note that “some Bishops” were advising their faithful to refrain from eating chocolate and sharing roses - as if the rituals of St. Valentine would or could contaminate the rituals of the most holy first day of Lent. Fr. Hunter was not of light thumb when he imposed those ashes of “Remember O man that thou art dust...” on my forehead - and not a soul in that congregation uttered a “Happy Valentines Day” afterward.
Farther into the day we had other plans, more of a Valentines Day nature. Though a major consideration was just how much to allow that “most holy (and obvious) smudge” to remain visible to our world at large.
I carried with me a certain delight in that coincidentia oppositorum (the coincidence of opposites) that is so much a part of ancient mystical theology as well as the psychological writings of Carl Jung. Ashes and chocolate. Hold them together in your imagination. Jung’s idea is that holding this “non-rational” union of opposites enables an individual to transcend and ultimately overcome his or her conflicts. The individual gains a new perspective and more encompassing and rewarding attitude toward what he or she formerly regarded to be an insoluble dilemma or conflict.
(Maybe this is why I have some success as a marriage counselor.)
All hell broke loose!
In the middle of the afternoon my cellphone began to send brief news notifications of a school shooting in Parkland, Florida - just across the state from where we were shopping in a grocery store. I didn’t pay much attention. And even that evening, dining on filet mignon and lobster tail, I still wasn’t much aware of what had been happening.
It was the next morning, when I finally began to realize that my minor coincidentia oppositorum of ashes and flowers had exploded into a third element - another ‘incident’ of murdered school children - lots of them - again.
Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing…
Gone to graveyards everyone…
When will they ever learn, when will we ever learn?
That was the same day that began with the ashes of repentance driven into my forehead.
An apparent mockery of the holiday of fresh love and romance. And even of chocolate. Strangely maybe the bishops were right.
These are the disparate elements of that one day - Wednesday, February 14, 2018.
Perhaps if I can hold them together, illogical as it may seem, I will find some peace or direction. It’s an old mystical tradition - not from any logic, except perhaps from the transcendent logic of the human heart.
Maybe, just maybe, it can take us there - and even guide us in doing something.