reverence n. a gesture indicative of respect
At the end of a ballet class, the dancers pay respect to the pianist and teacher by performing a series of curtsies, bows and ports de bras known as reverence. It is a physical manifestation of deep respect and honor. Several weeks ago I came upon reverence when searching for a word that could capture my feelings and thoughts regarding a recent tragic event. I have been struggling back and forth about whether to write and what to write about it because I don’t have confidence that my writing here will create an appropriate reverence for those who have suffered and lost. There are writers and artists far more eloquent and talented than I who have and will create tributes of much more profundity that I can express with my dictionary words. I’ve decided that instead of writing about how sad I feel about the whole thing, I would attempt something more reverent.
The world would be a better place if we were all ballet dancers and could perform reverence when needed. Imagine at the end of a business meeting everyone standing up and performing a 3 minute reverence as a gesture of respect for what was just discussed or planned – or just for the whiteboard on the wall, comfy chairs and overhead projector. Having attended quite a few meetings in my life, reverence would add some much needed civility.
As a reference, here is what reverence looks like:
Obviously this is not a realistic practice to propose, and unfortunately in our current world, the beauty and constraint of reverence would most likely be perverted into some sort of vulgar flash mob in Grand Central station – which would make it most irreverent.
In the here and now, the word reverence seems quite archaic. So few things in life are truly respected and honored these days. As a society we seem to want to flock to the center of attention and when the spotlight has moved we flee to another center elsewhere. In the perpetual chase to the “next big event” we become more and more numb, never taking the time to pay respect or to really absorb the gravitas of the thing that has just occurred; always searching for the next thing that will restore feeling or emotion. Perhaps it is because we don’t really understand “reverence” any longer or we feel the appropriate reaction would be to mimic what Hollywood tells us is sorrow or grief so that others will be sure to know we are suffering – like actors on a stage. In the case of Newtown, I feel this type of behavior is truly saddening and disrespectful.
The other day I was watching MSNBC and a talking head named Ashley Banfield was speaking about the tragedy. With a flip of her perfectly coiffed, shoulder length hair, mascara coated lashes clearly fluttering with feigned emotion, she said that “Newtown would probably never recover.” Her comment saddened and angered me and I wondered to myself if she ever listens to the words that come out of her mouth while she is on television. If she had any idea that her words were feeding a media fire, painting a picture of a town that deserves so much more respect. Or if she merely needs to boost the ratings for her paycheck.If Ms. Banfield had ever visited Newtown she surely would never have questioned whether it would “recover.”
26 people, some children, died in Newtown, Ct – undoubtedly one of the most horrific event that has occurred in in this country. But if we choose to dramatize the events and squeeze out all of the emotion and cinema, we are truly doing a dis service to those who were lost. The people that died in Newtown also lived in Newtown. There are far more happy memories shared at Sandy Hook Elementary than the one horrific event that occurred. For the parents that lost their children that day, it is in those memories that their children live. It is a place where teachers loved their students so much they ran in front of bullets to try and shield them as if they were their own children. Where neighbors took in children that fled the scene and people gathered to support each other in the aftermath.
It is a place where babies will be born, children will ride bikes in the streets, lovers will be married and families will celebrate memories. Newtown is a rare example of family and community, far too beautiful and strong to be destroyed by this terrible event. It is the type of town that Newtown is that makes what happened all the more tragic. A community strong enough to endure and pay reverence to the memories of the heroes and children that died that day.
A Psalm of Life
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, – act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solenm main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.