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Meaningful Schmutz

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

28 February 1990

Music Theory II

As always, Dr. Arlin strode into the classroom precisely at 7:59am. Only on this particular day, she had a bit of schmutz on her forehead.

It is a darn good thing that I thought to silently count to five before saying anything. Because the poor sod who inquired was on the receiving end of quite the lecture.

In my defense, I had never seen anyone observe Ash Wednesday prior to that brisk, snowy day in February. Given the observance includes ashes placed on one’s forehead by the priest or minister, I imagine I would have noticed it.

Ash Wednesday, for those of the Mosaic persuasion, is the start of the forty-six day period before Easter, commonly known as Lent. If childhood experience is to serve as the basis for my knowledge, then Lent would be the period when one gives up chocolate. Seriously. Every one of my Catholic friends gave up chocolate for Lent — every year. Leading me to the misguided conclusion that Lent doesn’t really work…and it’s better to just do the Ten Days of Repentance, culminating in Yom Kippur.

Dr. Arlin was, without question, the most demanding and most intimidating professor with whom I studied. I also learned more about music theory from her than from anyone else. I learned as well how to stand tall and walk through one’s day while observing a religious behaviour that was unknown to most.

I have thought of her every Ash Wednesday for the past twenty-one years and pray that her Lenten season is filled with meaning and purpose.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. ZaydeGiraffe permalink
    Wednesday, 9 March 2011 11:59 pm

    You will be pleased to learn that Dr. Mary Arlin, now Professor Emerita of Music at your alma mater, last year was awarded the Gail Boyd de Stwolinski Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Music Theory Teaching and Scholarship. This national award, given every two years by the Gail Boyd de Stwolinski Center for Music Theory Pedagogy at the University of Oklahoma, recognizes outstanding and distiguished teaching in music theory courses.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Thursday, 10 March 2011 12:12 am

      Good job with the Google search, Zayde!!!

      Dr. Arlin is completely deserving of the recognition. When they say “she wrote the book,” in this case, it’s true. We used a text book that she co-authored.

      Daunting, to say the least.

  2. Thursday, 10 March 2011 5:38 am

    A lovely tribute to Dr. Arlin. May she go from strength to strength.

    So, what do you know about hot cross buns that often sit side by side with hamantaschen in bakery windows at this season?

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 20 March 2011 9:19 pm

      Exactly what you suspect — sign of the cross. Though with pagen origins (like all good rituals!), it was co-opted by the Church and became custom to eat on Good Friday.

  3. Thursday, 10 March 2011 8:41 am

    a facebook friend of mine (a Christian friend, actually) posted yesterday “can someone explain the ashes on the forehead thing?” – so it’s not just the Jews who don’t know about this tradition.

    my friends all gave up chocolate too! i prefer the one-day fasting thing myself.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 20 March 2011 9:20 pm

      That is very sad, actually. It’s important to know about one’s own religion.

      • Wednesday, 22 February 2012 3:33 pm

        I hate when people don’t know about their own religious traditions. But that seems to be what we have goin’ on these days. Great post. I love how you get right to the heart of the matter. I think my post on Lent would have been 1200 words. 🙂


  1. Ash Wednesday Repeat « Frume Sarah's World

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