Passing Times

Somebody wrote to me and reffered to the article on altars published on February 23rd.

“…it is deeply humbling to know that the ‘baggage’ (that comes with this anniversary) does have a place, and that place is on the altar. There are times when the willingness to make the offering is everything, yet how easy it is to forget that”.

Birthdays, death-days, monastic anniversary days, my Master’s ordination-day, Remembrance Day, public holidays in honour of…well the list goes on. There are the big landmark birthdays: twenty-one, fifty seventy-five. In our tradition we have a ceremony on New Years Eve. After it we have our version of ringing in the New Year. Everybody gets a chance to ring the great bell, 108 times in total.

The abbot rings the bell first and thereafter all those who will be 7, 25, 45, or 60 in the coming year ring the bell once then everybody else follows. These numbers are regarded as the significant religious years in a person’s life. Seven is the end of the age of innocence. Twenty-five marks the start of adulthood and the end of what are called the ‘green years’. Forty-five is said to be the beginning of wisdom. And then there is age sixty, the ‘seeing of the mountain to ascend’. I take that to mean ones life is naturally turning inward after a life of service. A chance to take stock, see the mountain and ascend. I was at Shasta in the year I turned forty-five and rang the great bell after my Master.

Then there are the other anniversary dates that mark a life changing event, or world changing event: a trauma, an accident, a surgery, the day you fell in love, or got a divorce…the list goes on. During my life I’ve had a few anniversary dates that would have me wondering if something bad would happen this year. Eventually the memories faded and other dates became anniversaries, which in turn faded with the passing years.

Because it was snowing yesterday I watched “Life is Beautiful” (1999) with Roberto Benigni, instead of going to the park I’d intended to visit. The film is a skilful coverage of the Holocaust full of love, humour, compassion and human resilience in the face of crushing circumstances. This is a film well worth revisiting, again and again.

Uh! And did you know today is Mardi Gras, the final day of the famous carnival season in New Orleans? Yes, six months after Hurricane Katrina people in New Orleans have been dancing in their streets.

Latter in the message mentioned earlier:
“There’s nothing quite like an anniversary for tipping the balance and pulling the rug from under the feet”.

Yes, indeed I know that one. And our human resilience has us back on our feet again. Dancing!

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One thought on “Passing Times”

  1. Thanks, my parents celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary tomorrow, March 2nd. It was not always easy for them, never is, but the “human resilience” kept them going, and still does, bless them.
    Nice post, just at the right time.
    In gassho

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