“…you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” — Genesis 3.19b
I was not raised in a Christian tradition that paid much recognition to Ash Wednesday or the Lenten season, which began for many Christians a week ago. With the arrival of the season, though, this phrase has stuck in my mind.
To be returned to dust. Pulverized; pulvis: dust, powder, ash.
We will all be pulverized. What (ahem) levels the playing field more than that?
Perhaps in our heightened state of enlightenment, we have forgotten what it is we really are. Regardless if one believes in the literal creation (which I do not), or in evolutionary development (theistic or otherwise), the source is the same: we come from the elements. In kind, we will end up elements again.
In the meantime, we are animated dirt.
And, as dirt, living amongst dirt, we tend to lack self-awareness of our own dirtiness. As such, we take our fellow dirt for granted, we mistreat, we hate, we ignore, considering our collection of dirt of more value than someone else’s. All the while, neglecting the fundamental fact that I am dirt and could be dispatched to my natural, dusty state at any given time.
The fact that we are animated dust, then, should never be far from our minds, Lent or otherwise. This is the time to be grateful, to be fair, kind and to recognize the myriad ways in which we fail one another. This is the day to seek forgiveness and to forgive. The garden might not be an option anymore; that shouldn’t keep us from creating something beautiful (or as beautiful as dust can possibly be.) This is hope, that in spite of our mutated condition, we might yet even have the faintest resemblance of a time when things were right.
Indeed, while we yet have anima, we are extraordinary pulvis. Capable of life and destruction, often in the same manner and from the same source, inexorably thrust toward our pulverization. Ashes to ashes; dust to dust.
What will you do with your interim? What shall I do with mine?