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May 29, 2000

Memorial Day

The way we celebrate Memorial Day is more honest than what we say about it. Lip service is given to the dead, but the “unofficial beginning of Summer” is what’s enacted. I’m not sure whether it’s just incongruous, or dialectically appropriate, to memorialize our war dead at the season of rebirth. However that may be, we put more of ourselves, or at least more money, (by which it seems these things are measured,) into the barbecues, the sports, the sales, than we do into remembrance. It needn’t be so. A poignant possibility is being missed, unless you’re deeply moved by the playing of Taps, just before the Indy 500. Vroom.

This displacement is testament to the power of the Traditional Holidays. If a Holiday is really there, it will be celebrated, one way or another. This, then, is America’s Maying. A little on the late side, but still probing that margin we’ve discussed here, between Spring and Summer. Celebrated with typical populist exuberance, and not a little coarseness. As I said: honest.

No doubt the memorials are honest too. If they are subsumed, it’s only because, facing the Mystery of Life and Death, Life will choose Life. So we place flowers upon the graves of war, on this that once was Decoration Day. I have a few to strew, but they are for us all, for all of Life makes the same sacrifice. I would not belittle warriors, but do regret their necessity. Still, it’s an irony that their efforts have earned us the luxury of forgetfulness.

The luxury of remembrance is earned by virtue of having already celebrated May, in its due course, leaving room for today's memories.

Let us remember, then, the Dead. That died in war, or otherwise. Many have died of war that were not soldiers; they deserve no less, if not the same, regard. Then there are those, not warriors, who nonetheless found life to be a battle that they could not win, while others lived and loved it well, but died the same.

The Spring is fading.
Continuity is guaranteed.
Achieved, the ecstasy
withdraws. We all know
how this cycle goes.
But who knows where?

We live our lives for the sake of the Dead, as much as for the unborn, that yet shall join them.
As will we.
To decorate this strait, only the finest flowers will do.