Sunday, February 26, 2012

"Dust in the Wind" and Getting a Grip

I like songs by Spike Jones and "Weird Al" Yankovic. I also like 'poetic' songs like this:
"I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment's gone
All my dreams pass before my eyes, a curiosity...

"...don't hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away, and all your money won't another minute buy
Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind....
("Dust in the Wind," Kansas (1977))

Chasing the Wind

By the time "Dust in the Wind" appeared, I'd seen the "Gray Flannel Suit" give way to Beatlemania, which was succeeded by disco: as some folks desperately tried to force others to live in a nostalgic vision of the '40s. I've been over that before.1

"Dust in the Wind" was a welcome change from the various flavors of living for material gain, or material pleasure, that seemed so terribly important at the moment. Besides, I recognized at least one of the sources of the song's ideas:
"3 What profit has man from all the labor which he toils at under the sun?

"One generation passes and another comes, but the world forever stays.

"The sun rises and the sun goes down; then it presses on to the place where it rises.

"Blowing now toward the south, then toward the north, the wind turns again and again, resuming its rounds.

"All rivers go to the sea, yet never does the sea become full. To the place where they go, the rivers keep on going."
(Ecclesiastes 1:3-7)
I could quibble about phrases like "the world forever stays:" but that'd be viewing a treatise written about two dozen centuries back through the eyes of a 21st century Western literalist.

Doing that would, in my opinion, be silly: and an exercise in missing the point.

On a related topic, I also do not think that Ecclesiastes is in the Bible because we're supposed to think that people are 'just animals:'
"For the lot of man and of beast is one lot; the one dies as well as the other. Both have the same life-breath, and man has no advantage over the beast; but all is vanity.

"Both go to the same place; both were made from the dust, and to the dust they both return."
(Ecclesiastes 3:19-20)

"3 All man's toil is for his mouth, yet his desire is not fulfilled.

"For what advantage has the wise man over the fool, or what advantage has the poor man in knowing how to conduct himself in life?

"4 'What the eyes see is better than what the desires wander after.' This also is vanity and a chase after wind."
(Ecclesiastes 6:7-9)
I think it's reasonable to see Ecclesiastes as a sort of reality check. Sooner or later, any wealth, or pleasure, or fame, or reputation, that I work for will pass.

That's not an expression of hopelessness, and I'll get back to that.

Dust and Wind - Not 'Biblical?!'

Several years ago, when I was listening to 'Christian radio,' I heard a fairly passionate denunciation of "Dust in the Wind." The chap really, sincerely, didn't like the idea that "all we are is dust in the wind." Can't say that I blame him for that. The idea that all the awards, recordings, and stock options we may collect - and our bodies - are ephemeral phenomena isn't exactly cheerful.

He eventually got around to saying that death is not the end, and that God has something more in mind for us. But not before removing any doubt that he was very upset about that awful "Dust in the Wind" song.

There are some songs that I don't like. And others that with lyrics that I think express harmful ideas.

But hearing someone popularize the idea that "both were made from the dust, and to the dust they both return" - and getting upset because it's not 'Biblical?!'

I've wondered how many of these 'Bible-believing' radio personalities ever read parts of the Bible that aren't on their equivalent of the Top 40 Hits Parade - and that's another topic.

"To Dust You Shall Return:" Humility and Salvation

The Pope had a few things to say about dust and hope on Ash Wednesday:
"Pontiff Notes Hopeful Element in 'To Dust You Shall Return"
Kathleen Naab, ZENIT (February 23, 2012)
"Says Through That 'Dust,' God Became Unthinkably Near

"Benedict XVI says the somber Ash Wednesday declaration "You are dust and to dust you shall return" is not only an invitation to humility, but also an announcement of the path to salvation.

"The Pope made this reflection Wednesday as he celebrated evening Mass for the start of Lent at Rome's Basilica of Santa Sabina.

"Referring to the Genesis description of the fall of Adam and Eve and God's response, the Holy Father explained: 'When [God] says to man, "You are dust and to dust you shall return!" together with the just punishment he also intends to announce a path of salvation, which will travel through the earth, through that "dust," that "flesh" that will be assumed by the Word.'..."
ZENIT also has an English translation of Benedict XVI's complete homily. Which is just as well for me. The Holy See's website has a few translations of Benedict XVI's text online. The language they've provided that's closest to something I can easily read is Spanish. I'd been working my way through that, when I found the ZENIT full text, English translation:
What the Pope said gets a bit technical, but I think Benedict XVI's Ash Wednesday homily is worth reading. Or watching. The Vatican's website has the video, and a few text translations:
  • "Statio" and Penitential Procession - Holy Mass, Blessing and Imposition of the Ashes
    Benedict XVI Homilies, (February 22, 2012)
I put a sample of ZENIT's translation at the end of this post.2

Looking Past Today

Between doing the occasional job to help my son-in-law, hanging out with the family, researching and writing these posts, and learning how to make better use of 3d graphics software: it's easy for me to get caught up in 'today.'

I try to remember that there's a bigger picture: and that my first priority should be getting ready for the life that'll outlast this universe. It's like the last part of Ecclesiastes says:
"7 The last word, when all is heard: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is man's all;

"because God will bring to judgment every work, with all its hidden qualities, whether good or bad."
(Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

"[13] Man's all: St. Jerome explains: 'Unto this is every man born that, knowing his Maker, he may revere him in fear, honor, and the observance of his commandments.' "
(Footnote 7, Ecclesiastes 12)
Cheerful? Full of peppy slogans and feel-good assurances? Hardly. But that's not the point.

Related posts:

1 I take the injunction in Deuteronomy 22:5 seriously. Besides, I rather like the way God designed humanity in two distinct and complimentary models.

But when someone acts as if their preferences are backed up by the Almighty? It's goofy, at best:
2 Excerpt from ZENIT's English translation on Benedict XVI's Ash Wednesday homily:
"Pope's Ash Wednesday Homily"
Benedict XVI, Basilica of Santa Sabina, English translation via ZENIT (February 22, 2012)

"God's Unthinkable Nearness ... Opens the Passage to the Resurrection"

"...With this day of penance and fasting -- Ash Wednesday -- we begin a new journey toward the Easter of Resurrection: the journey of Lent. I would like to pause briefly to reflect on the liturgical sign of ashes, a material sign, an element of nature, which becomes a sacred symbol in the liturgy, a very important symbol on this day in which we start our Lenten journey. Historically, in the Jewish culture, the practice of sprinkling ashes upon one's head as a sign of penance was common and was often combined with the wearing of sackcloth or rags. For us Christians, however, this is the only time that we use ashes but it has a special ritual and spiritual relevance.

"First of all, ashes are one of those material signs that bring the cosmos into the liturgy....

"...The 'merits of the soul,' of which Origen speaks, are necessary; but Christ's merits are fundamental, the efficaciousness of his Paschal Mystery. St. Paul offered us a summary formulation in the second Letter to the Corinthians, today's second reading: 'He who did not know sin God made sin for our benefit, that in him we might become the justice of God' (2 Corinthians 5:21). The possibility for us of divine pardon depends essentially on the fact that God himself, in the person of his Son, wanted to share our condition, but not the corruption of sin....

"...We invoked him a moment ago with the Psalm 'Miserere': 'Create in me, O God, a pure heart, / renew in me a firm spirit. / Do not banish me from your presence / and do not deprive me of your holy spirit' (Psalm 50:12-13). That God who banished our first parents from Eden, sent his Son to our earth devastated by sin, he did not spare him, that we, prodigal sons, might return, contrite and redeemed by his mercy, to our true homeland. May it be so for each one of us, for all believers, for every man who humbly recognizes his need of salvation. Amen."
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]


Brigid said...

Missing a period: "I've been over that before"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...


Got it: thanks!

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.