Sunday, August 23, 2009



I’ve mentioned that the local Methodist church with the marquee sign seems to have come up with some new  aphorisms to put there. Maybe their source puts out updates periodically. I wonder whether they have to buy a subscription. Or maybe they get it from the mother church as part of the franchise.

The current blurb is another new one:


I thought about that for a bit. (I guess that’s part of the point.)

I wondered whether there might be some relation of tears to Methodist tenets. There’s certainly a lot of tears and crying in Biblical religions. An old friend used to enjoy the bit of trivia that the shortest verse in the (King James) Bible is “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

The Catholic Requiem mass contains the Lacrimosa verse in the Dies Irae (day of judgment) sequence, referring to a tearful day:

Lacrimosa dies illa
Qua resurget ex favilla
Judicandus homo reus
Huic ergo parce, Deus

At the Passover seder, Jews use salted water to represent tears of the enslaved Jews in Egypt... and dip out some of the celebratory wine to acknowledge the suffering of the Egyptians under the ten plagues.

It’s not clear how any of this relates to seeing clearly, though. Is it that only through tears of suffering can people understand life (or God)? Maybe it’s that through the tears, we learn to appreciate what we have.

Another thought: the tears aren’t literal, here, but the slogan is a metaphor, reminding us to be compassionate toward others. If we weep for those less fortunate, maybe we’ll see our way to helping them, as well.

Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt.

— Virgil, from “The Aeneid”

The world is a world of tears, and the burdens of mortality touch the heart.

— Translation by Robert Fagles

Of all the displays on that sign, I think I like this one best.

And it brought to mind a different view of “seeing clearly”, from my high school days:

I can see clearly now; the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It’s gonna be a bright, bright sun-shiny day.

— Johnny Nash

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