My post for this week was slow in coming. And it's not been refined or edited. The words started (finally!) to shape themselves and so I got them down. Some of the things I wrestled with for this week's post fell into the category of relevance. I wrote something on Sunday, but on Wednesday it felt hollow. The writing I did on Monday didn't sing when I read it again on Tuesday. So for a few days I just backed away...and to be quite honest, I was not going to post at all on this theme. But I'm nothing if not stubborn and I figure (hope) this is a pretty safe place for even the shitty first drafts.
Over the years writing has become a habit for me. Since my freshman year of college I’ve filled eight five-subject notebooks. I do not write every evening, but most nights the pen hits the paper. I’ve written countless papers, essays, and reflections for classes. I have special notebooks I use for the thoughts that come to me during prayer.
I write; it’s what I do.
With this writing, there is, of course, struggle. Recently I’ve begun to wrestle with the notions of relevance and transience. What was true yesterday may not be true today. The self recorded in the first five-subject notebook is not the self I am today. In some cases, I cringe when I return to those early musings. At other times, I’m surprised by the attentiveness and, rarely, the wisdom in those pages.
But it all passes; it all shifts and changes. At some point the writing, the musing, the insights all disappear.
A few years ago I went to the morning Mass for Ash Wednesday at the women’s religious community in my college town. The community distributes ashes at Morning Prayer rather than at Mass, but as I was leaving the chapel after the service, the prioress stepped out of her stall with a dish of ashes. She anointed my forehead, saying, “Remember you are dust and to dust you will return.”
Later that day in an e-mail she wrote, “I’m glad I was able to remind you of your mortality this morning.”
It’s not a thing I like to ponder, this mortality. I do not care for Benedict’s admonition to “keep death daily before [my] eyes.” I hope for the pride of permanence.
Writing, perhaps more than anything else I do, reminds me that someday I will not be here. I will return to dust and so will my words.
And still I write.