Ashes to Ashes

Check out Gregory Colbert, way cool.

…And dust to dust is how the phrase goes, and given that today is Ash Wednesday, it’s weighing heavy on my mind. Combined with my recent viewing of Angel, and of course my thoughts turn to the fundamental nature of existence and what everything means when life’s usually a subjective experience. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, so what’s the point of taking any action? Given that Ash Wednesday kicks off Lent, it feels particularly important to resolve this fundamental divide between wanting to do good and actually doing good.

Most of the time, my relation to my religion is kept under lock and key. I don’t normally don religious jewelry, and I doubt that there’s ever anything in the way I dress that would visibly mark me as a member of any particular faith. Ash Wednesday though, is a different story. Getting anointed with ashes in the evening spares you from questioning looks from others (usually) but every now and then I get them in the morning and I’m met with some variation of the following: Is that your religion on your forehead? Is it permanent?

Choosing to remain a member of a faith you’re raised in is akin to choosing to remain fluent in a language. Language is essentially a tool, a means to an end where communication is the main goal. Mastery of any tool requires you to continually hone and practice with it, and should you cease you’ll find that any level of skill you may have achieved has gone rusty. With this in mind, religion as a choice is very permanent, and should you choose to act you would hope to act in a manner that is consistent with whatever it is you believe. It’s not always the case, but if your goal is to do what’s right to lead a virtuous life, you’ll try to practice doing good until practice makes perfect.

Given that the pursuit of perfection necessitates that you take action, it’s logical that you’d make some mistakes along the way because our actions rarely take place in a vacuum and we rarely get it right on our first try. This is what tends to differentiate those who pursue success from those who settle: successful people keep moving until they reach their goal. Fear of failure is debilitating, and can keep us from taking action, but what we always need to do is keep moving to keep growing.

With that in mind, I leave you with Owl City’s “The Real World”:

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