Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday. The first day of lent (or “vasten” -“fast”), a period of modesty and meditation, leading up to the return of the light. Probably simply a translation to religious terms of the hardship of winter. It gives a noble significance to the meager foods on the table during this period.


On Ash Wednesday, when I was young and attended catholic schools, we went to church. The priest would put some ashes on his thumb and then draw a little cross on our foreheads. Saying that we should remember that we are made of dust and ashes and will return to dust and ashes.

So we ran around all day in school trying to keep the ashes on as long as possible. We didn’t “remember” much of anything, as kids.

It makes sense to think about death when nature is cold and silent. In our modern age when there is never a shortage of anything, really, we have lost an appreciation of the natural cycles (of which we are still a part with our mortal bodies). Religion reconciled humans with nature. But now we’re disconnected from nature. Or at least we pretend we are.

Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

Images borrowed from Elevated and Jesterry.

2 thoughts on “Ash Wednesday”

  1. How will we preserve our reverence for the periods of nature as we becoming increasingly removed not only from natural cycles, but from natural biology? I find the trans-humanist trends that are emerging to be both exciting and also quite sad because of the seeming lack of understanding for the humility that mortality asks of us. When we become a world of deathless personalities, sustained by the storage and computational capability of nano-bots and synthetic neurons, who will remember what it was like to fear, prepare for and endure the realities of death? Or how amazing the feat of our existence was in the face of such reality?

  2. I’ve been thinking about natural cycles as well lately, particularly seasons and food. Ash Wednesday sounds like a useful ritual. I find the contact between the dead ash and the living skin very evocative, similarly to how I thought about skin meeting skin and skin meeting steel after watching the movie Curse of the Golden Flower.

    I wonder if a game could be used to bring this same awareness to a different audience? This idea of materials meeting each other might be useful, though it might not. There’s really a lot to work with here, in natural cycles, seasons, food, energy, growth, mortality… Sounds good to me. :)

Comments are closed.