Sunday, March 05, 2006

Remember That You Are Dust

On January 1st we rang in the New Year, and on January 29th Asian cultures ushered in the lunar Year of the Dog, but for many Christians the year began spiritually on March 1st with Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. In the land of plenty, we need Lent more than ever.

Lent commemorates Jesus’ 40 days of testing in the wilderness, where he decided not to stray from the lonely path that culminated in his crucifixion. Lent is a time for self-examination and repentance, for prayer, fasting, and self-denial, for reading and meditating. Lent is a time to ponder a simple list of almost quaint-sounding words: pride, greed, envy, lust, anger, sloth, and gluttony. (I have a great deal of trouble with at least four---how are you doing, dear reader?)

Modern affluence allows us to sate nearly every appetite. Most Americans live free from hunger, crippling disease, and premature death. But 21st century man craves even more. Our minds need to be perpetually entertained, an eighth sin that the ancients would have listed if they had round-the-clock cable with 500 channels. Universal wi-fi, blackberries and cell-phones, and portable audio, video, and game players have banished boredom forever. Stimulation is available 24/7; life has become Las Vegas.

But man’s physiology has not changed. We are still susceptible to the weaknesses of the flesh and the seven deadly sins. And....we are mortal. It’s just that we don’t have to think about our mortality very much, as modernity overwhelms the senses. That’s why the priest imposes the ashes and intones:
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
© 2006 Stephen Yuen

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