Ashes to Ashes

Fr. Joseph Noonan O.F.M.

If one were to state that most of the people who have lived in this world, have lived an illusion, there would be in all probability a worldwide outcry of disbelief.

How is it that one would dare state such a thing? It is due to the fact of what one observes everywhere in society; people living as if this world was the only thing that mattered. Their thoughts rarely seem to go beyond that of the materialism that surrounds them. In a way, who could blame them, for they don't seem to know any better. The reality of the situation is, though, we are accountable, both individually and collectively.

The only way to remove an illusion is through what today is known as a "reality check." It simply implies that the concerned person is made to realize that things in this world are much different than what they might imagine. The imagination is indeed key to understanding what is real and what is not.

It ought to be understood as a matter of clarity that the imagination has been given to us for many good purposes. The examples of the writer and artist are but two that show us how these good purposes may be put to use.

Children represent those whom we commonly consider to have "big imaginations." For many years the electronic and printed media have promoted many different fictional characters and images that are nothing more than the exaggeration of one's fertile imagination. The producers of these images, though, are interestingly almost always adults. At least that is what their age seems to indicate. What seemed to begin as something rather innocent for children several decades ago, has turned into something of a hidden monster.

The result of this ongoing barrage is more devious than what most would expect. Children and young adults in increasing numbers over the past four to five decades have had a much greater difficulty in dealing with "the real world." Their unwillingness to make decisions and stick to them, and to commit themselves for honorable purposes are but two examples. This displays an immaturity that quite often comes from parents or guardians allowing their children to remain in these "other worlds" for such a period of time that it is detrimental to the development of the child. These individuals have a difficult time distinguishing between reality and fantasy.

Although some may not perceive it in this manner, the all too familiar Mickey Mouse shirts, pillows, etc. (as but one example) that are used by adults would seem to display a lack of desire to leave such things behind in their childhood and face life in a more serious manner. The all too obvious result is that they do, to some degree, live in a fantasy world. This means that the proper outlook on life, a spiritual one, is sadly pushed aside, if it is known at all.

False images, though in a rather different way from what has been stated above, are the aim of those who would hide behind the mask of exaggerated self-importance through a position, fashion, or cosmetics.

Human history has recorded numberless individuals who held governmental (political) positions that once having secured it, thought they were untouchable. To read the words of these people, or listen to them in our own day, one might easily conclude that the power has clearly gone to their head. They no longer have the welfare of the people in mind, but their own self-importance, and filling their wallet. Most politicians of our day fit this uncomplimentary description. Some, as in the case of the caesars of the Roman Empire, were looked upon as gods!

Business and finance has its own set of undesirables. The Rothchilds, Rockefellers, Kissingers, and Clintons of this world live as though they will never have to answer for their actions. It is truly amazing to observe the depth to which people will go once they have lost sight of reality. That is, the true purpose for our existence and how we ought to conduct ourselves because of it.

The arena of fashion and cosmetics is an interesting one because it includes people of all walks of life.

The proper and decent adornment of the individual is not in question here, but the overdone, exaggerated, and ridiculous lengths to which people will go so as to bring about a "false image" through a misguided intellect and an overheated imagination.

The silly, vain world in which so many live has been with us for a very long time. It's actually hard to imagine (no pun intended) how so many want to try and present themselves in such a way so others will think of them in a different way than what they really are. Is it any wonder that the material used to accomplish this is referred to as "make-up?!" I am reminded of the insightful comment of a middle-aged gentleman in referring to the constantly changing hairstyles of women and how there are those that absolutely must correspond to whatever is "in." "Will it ever end?!"

We clearly live in an age where the most ridiculous and/or immoral trends are put alongside that which is decent and becoming and yet we are supposed to think that the only difference is that of opinion. Never mind what used to be known as common decency. That went out the proverbial window once the perverted derelicts began to gain a dominant influence. The depth of man's plight could easily be gauged by this fact.

The pierced noses, tongues, eyes, multiple pierced ears of women, and the pierced ears of men ; blue, green, red, purple, etc., colored hair; head or close shaven women, spiked hair, and so on are clear signs of man's decadence.

To put it another way, when right is considered wrong, and wrong is right; one's exaggerated imagination is considered reality, and reality is considered to be one's imagination, we certainly have lost our way.

In the Book of Genesis, man is reminded of his humble beginnings. "And the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul." (Genesis: Chap. 2; Verse 7) We are reminded of our end on Ash Wednesday, also from the Book of Genesis. "... for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return." (Genesis: Chap. 3; Verse 19)

These words should be a sober reminder of the futility of man to think that he is something more than what he really is. All the pride and vanity will get us nowhere, no matter how hard we try or how convinced we might otherwise be.

The honor, dignity, humility, and modesty with which all men must necessarily carry themselves is the external expression of their immortal souls. The degree to which these virtues are lacking expresses an unwillingness to correspond with the reality we have come to know as the very reason for our existence. Being temples of the Holy Ghost necessarily should remind us that we are primarily spiritual beings. Our bodies are nothing more than a means by which to contain these souls.

Whether one speaks of a child's exaggerated imagination, ruthless adults working toward controlling the world, or the silly images that are brought about through vanity, we all must come to the realization that we are unworthy, sinful creatures that will one day die. Our bodies will return to the earth from which they came and our souls will face Our Creator. This is the stark reality of life. To think otherwise, is an abuse of one's mind and imagination.

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