Thursday, February 12, 2009

This too shall pass

Not long ago someone made an awkward request to her friends. She asked them to consider joining her in what can be only be called a venture into the sometimes ambiguous art of tattooing, that is to have a tattoo made or painted on some part of their bodies. Not having expected such an indulgence from their friend into what seemed a way-out and slightly exhibitionist exercise, practised only by weirdos and hippies, most of those invited reacted with surprise, if not open alarm.

This however did not put the friend off. Responding to their inquiring and puzzled look she went on calmly and informed them that she had actually already had her tattoo done. She also revealed that there had been a purpose in her little madness - that her tattoo was not only a fleeting idea, but something which would continue to serve as an important reminder, a piece of wisdom, a motto for life, ingrained in her body and mind and which she will carry with her as a permanent sign of hope.

Having informed them about her surprising venture she then turned her wrist to them so that they could see for themselves. And lo and behold, there it was, neatly written in curly letters on her slender wrist, the words: “This too shall pass”. The astonishment of her friends grew, but when they saw the excited and proud look she had, they realized how important this was for her and, considering her history, how profound the words actually were.

By this she was telling herself and the world out there that most things that happen to us, things which are bad and deeply upsetting, which seem extremely devastating, are in the end always relative, provisional, transient - that they eventually shall pass, that the tide will turn again, harbouring new opportunities, new joys. Her motto of course also has a ring of realism to it - reminding us that we must also reckon with the fact that our happiness, our moments of joy are also transient, that they can and shall also pass…and that we must embrace them as precious gifts as long as we have them.

There are off course other ways, less public and unconventional, to carry and proclaim our truths. This does not necessarily demean the truth of the woman’s tattoo. In fact for those who profess to be Christians the content of her motto is a call not only to faith, but also to realism.

Because this too - whatever is part of your life now - shall surely pass!

Carel Anthonissen

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