They will be all over today…. the people with a little smudge on their forehead. Today is Ash Wednesday and for many, it is a day to make visible the cross that was placed on their foreheads in oil at their baptism. In some beliefs, the ashes are the remains of the palms from the preceding year’s Palm Sunday. In others, they are the remnants of the holiday decorations, the greens which hung throughout the Christmas season. Just as the wearing of a yellow hat or numbers tattooed on the arm signified one’s religious affiliation during the mid-1900’s in Europe, these smudges are a sign of faith, of commitment, a sign of being part of something larger than themselves.
During the next forty-six days (I count straight-through, including Sundays), we will plant a garden. We aren’t growing a rose brush or even vegetables, although this is the time of year in the northern hemisphere to start to do that. We will be growing ourselves.
The purpose of this blog is to explore the connections we have with others and for the past two years we have done just that. We’ve woven stories, explored through literature, exchanged recipes, and traveled the world seeking sacred places and artifacts. However, it is time to look inward and undertake the hardest thing of all – a look at ourselves.
This is not going to turn into a self-help blog; don’t worry. I am neither that knowledgeable nor qualified. The conversations will continue, I hope, about all of mankind. Like any good weaver, though, we need to take stock of our fibers and for this series, we will look at the fibers of our own being.
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” The spiritualist Rumi gave us our challenge. However, I am not so concerned with you changing yourself as I am about you finding value within yourself. We are all uniquely made individuals and we all have value.
In his book “Make the Most of You”, Patrick Lindsay quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.” Lindsay mentions that there are three actions we all can participate in: leave everything better than how we found it; wear our scars proudly; unleash our own song. In this series, I want you to plant thoughts that will help you blossom. I want you to sing and sing your own individual song as it becomes harmonious with the rest of mankind.
Being an individual in this world is not easy. Last night, the United States officially began the process of electing a new president by voters in New Hampshire taking part in the first primaries of the year. For the past eight or nine months, the candidates have engaged in efforts to make themselves unique and the debates have illustrated how much they are striving to be just like their constituents while at the same time trying to make themselves stand out from the crowd.
One winner of the primaries last night did this by seeming to join a party, although he is officially still listed as an independent. The other did this by misbehaving, interrupting, screaming, and instead of discussing himself, discussed what was wrong with everyone else. If one was trying to find depth in any of the debates, one left very disappointed. If nothing else, the process thus far has illustrated the need for a search of self and there is no better time than for us to begin our own right now, starting today.
One of my favorite philosophers of the twentieth century was not a philosopher at all. She was an actress, the late and magnificently great Katharine Hepburn. “We are taught you must blame your father, your sisters, your brothers, the school, the teachers – but never blame yourself. It’s never your fault. But it’s always your fault, because if you wanted to change you’re the one who has got to change.”
Colombian writer and reporter Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in his book “Love in the Time of Cholera” explains what we must realize in order to grow a better version of ourselves. We have to understand that “human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”
I hope you will join me in this series of self. We really cannot afford to waste this opportunity. We never know if we have a tomorrow so we owe it to ourselves to give today all we can. Trust me…You are worth it.