In his poem “The Waste Land,” T.S. Eliot said that “April is the cruelest month.”
Why? Because in its
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain”
it mixes new life and desire with things that have died and passed.
That’s not our usual approach to the spring season, but Eliot continues that:
“Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.”
The winter snows did actually keep the soil “warm” in that protective way that snow cover helps plants and gives the bulbs the rest needed to be renewed.
But April is a cruel month for other reasons.
This year we had the Boston Marathon bombing. I
n 2007, there was the April 16 Virginia Tech shooting.
April 20, 1999 was the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.
The bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 was on April 19, a date chosen by Timothy McVeigh because it was the anniversary of the bloody end of the FBI siege on a compound at Waco, Texas in 1993.
The Columbine tragedy was on Adolph Hitler’s birthday, thought to be symbolic by the young shooters. And the FBI wondered if the date of the Boston Marathon, April 15, was significant being that it was Patriots Day, a Massachusetts state holiday commemorating the opening battles of the American Revolutionary War. The Waco and Oklahoma City tragedies were on the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in the American Revolution.
“He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience.”
So, are the dates symbolic attempts to make a statement, or is there something about the month of April?
For extremists who believe that our federal government is as tyrannical as the British monarchy of our American Revolution, the date is symbolic of a war on a government by its own patriot people.
Of course, every month has its tragedies in modern and older times. But I have seen articles lately mentioning April as the month for not only the Revolutionary War’s start, but the American Civil War. Add to that the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.
But I have also read that April is no more violent statistically than other months. In fact, crime statistics go up in summer.
“A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”
American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron wrote a book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, in which she writes that “We live in difficult times. One senses a possibility they may get worse.” Her book is a Tibetan Buddhist view in how Buddhism helps cope with fear, despair, rage and the feeling that we are not in control of our lives.
The Buddhist view that despite any planning or efforts on our part, the only thing we can predict with certainty is change. While most of us rage against the night of all that, the Buddhist surrenders to the reality of impermanence. We can center and ground ourselves. We can discover our relationship to a higher power that controls our world, no matter what name we may give to that power.
“Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
-But who is that on the other side of you?”