Sunday, March 15, 2015

Beware the Ides of March

According to Shakespeare, by way of the Roman historian Plutarch, a soothsayer passed along to Julius Caesar this solemn warning: “Beware the Ides of March.” Caesar should have taken those words more seriously. In spite of the soothsayer’s warning, fearsome thundering, and his wife’s dreams of murder, Caesar went about his business on the ides, March 15, 44 B.C., and Brutus and about sixty co-conspirators stabbed him to death in the Roman Senate. I guess that's when Caesar got the point.

“Beware the ides of March.” I don’t remember if I first heard that phrase on one of my mother’s Shakespeare LPs or if it was in Mr. Larson’s eleventh-grade English class. Seems like that’s the year we read some of Shakespeare’s plays, including Julius Caesar, from which that phrase comes.

“Beware the ides of March.” The term ides was used to describe the 15th day of the months of March, May, July, and October. But thanks to Shakespeare, our contemporary understanding thinks only of the ides of March. When was the last time you heard anyone say anything about the ides of July? Probably never. “Beware the ides of March.”

But why March? I did a little internet research (you know what that means: I googled once and clicked twice) and much to surprise I found a site called “The Top Ten Reasons to Beware the Ides of March.” No kidding. The site reveals ten nasty things that have happened on March 15 across the centuries—among them: the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C.; a raid on Southern England in 1360; a destructive Samoan cyclone in 1889 that sunk a bunch of ships and killed a bunch of people; Czar Nicholas II abdication of the throne to the Bolsheviks in 1917; Germany’s occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939; a deadly Midwest blizzard in 1941; a world record rainfall of 73.62 inches on the Indian Ocean island of La Reunion in 1952; and the CBS’s cancellation of the Ed Sullivan Show in 1971. Holy Moley! That’s some nasty stuff right there. Maybe we should beware the ides of March.

Or maybe not. I can’t speak for you or Caesar or the Russians or the Czechs or the poor islanders who live on La Reunion, but the ides of March has never been cruel to me. The worst thing the ides of March means for me is that I only have one month left to procrastinate on my taxes. Other than that, I like March 15 just fine.

In fact, I pretty much like the whole month of March. I’ll admit it is a bit schizophrenic: comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion or is it the other way around? And it is the month when winter and spring seem to arm-wrestle for control. But all in all, especially in our wonderful South, March, including the 15th, is all right by me. Cherry blossoms and forsythia in bloom. Daffodils and tulips waking up from a long winter’s nap and dressing in their prettiest clothes for their coming out party. Spring break, spring training, and a spring in everybody’s step. Short-sleeve shirts. March Madness. Easter (sometimes). My big brother’s birthday. New leaves, green grass, bluebirds and robins. March is just fine by me. It takes me back to my high school days when some of my buddies and I would pitch kites into the March wind and fly them off Table Rock Dam. And in the present, even though I’m Scotch by descent, because of my last name and my redheaded countenance lots of people confuse me for an Irishman and wish me an extra hearty Happy St. Patty’s Day. And that's okay by me. So three cheers for March!

And that goes for the ides of March too. So in spite of the soothsayer’s warning to Caesar, I’m not going to beware the ides of March; I’m going to embrace it and live it and give thanks for it. The psalmist said, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” There’s no exception clause in that verse for March 15; God wants us to rejoice and be glad in that day too. So Happy Ides of March everyone … Happy Ides of March!

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