I thought I had left the sun behind me when I returned from a warm Budapest to an overcast St Andrews, grey saturated with student dread at the prospect of starting class. 1 April was cold and sodden, and with every excursion onto St Andrews’ small streets I was given a blustery reminder of Scotland’s rebellion against traditional weather patterns.
Soon enough, however, the clouds cleared, the days lengthened, and the layers were peeled off – like reverse metamorphosis, St Andrews students emerged from their Barbour cocoons clean and raw, and lifted their eyes to the sky. Golfers came out of their hibernation, bags of clubs strapped across their backs as they trotted off to lush green courses.
Spring is interesting in that, ostensibly, it is a time of rebirth, of emergence and rejuvenation for the soul and body alike. Yet inherent in the concept of revival is death – Easter is emblematic of this, combining a commemoration of Jesus’ death with a celebration of his unanticipated awakening.
The week prior to Pentecost Sunday marks Semana Santa, or Holy Week, a festival honoring Christ’s (seemingly) last days on earth. In many cities in Spain and Latin America, Semana Santa prompts the devout to express their love for and appreciation of Christ, and should also induce secular citizens to reflect on themselves and their decisions, on how they have helped and harmed others and themselves.
Irrespective of religious denomination, we should use the week to contemplate what makes our life worthwhile, the people and activities which inform our choices and draw our affections.
What do we seek to change about ourselves? Every transformation is the shedding of a skin, the desiccation of an old or delete- rious part of your person in order to allow the growth of something new and, hopefully, beneficial. Morbid though it may sound, with each alteration comes the death of a part of ourselves, a minor facet of our personalities to which we choose to say goodbye.
We are naturally prone to bad habits, each of us comprised of sizeable flaws – though we seek to rectify them, for our own betterment, their loss still signifies a small death within us, hopefully followed by the creation of something fresh and favorable. We must all a little die to save ourselves – religious or not.
The culmination of Holy Week – Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified – represents the false finality of error or tragedy. Many hold the devastating but incorrect impression that bad decisions, or any series of unfortunate events, are not rectifiable, and that lost opportunities, or loves, or friendships, will mar one’s life forever. This is not true what is lost, what dies, is not recoverable; however, for the most part, there is a second chance, another life in this convoluted, multi-player video game of existence.
The Jesus that rose on Sunday was not the same man who passed away three days earlier – not exactly, anyway.
Our trials and mistakes mark us to a certain degree, and vestiges of past misdeed will undoubtedly remain; but we – our whole, fallible selves – continue to move forward.
There is very little in this life that cannot be mended – the emotional, and literal, rashes, bruises, and broken bones will heal. A fatalistic mindset is in our very biology: our ancestors were faced with very real existential crises, evading predators and enduring periods of starvation that threatened to kill them.
Today, this catastrophic attitude is directed at, when compared to the struggles of our ancestors, incredibly trivial, quotidian matters – we produce enormous amounts of anxiety over writing a mediocre essay, missing out on revelry, fighting with friends or relatives.
There is almost always an- other chance – perhaps not do to the same thing, or be with the same person, but to succeed and love in good measure. We cannot change the past, but – get this – we can change the future, which is infinitely indeterminate and thus all-possible.
Spring must therefore be a time of reconciliation, a reconstruc- tion of oneself and one’s relationships with others. There should be no remorse, no return to frosty exchanges or a time of barren prospects, but only a projection forward – your tether to the past will decay and fall, leaving you unfettered and far lighter than anticipated.
There is a caveat to all of this. In the story of Easter, Jesus was resurrected – once. Our opportunities for betterment are not infi- nite; sometimes there is a third, or fourth, chance, but often one more is all we receive. Take advantage of this other opportunity – we frequently lose things because we do not look thoroughly enough, even if those things are dearest to us.
The days are longer now – the sun has pushed away the clouds. Use the new light to see what you thought you missed, but are really still missing.