Friday 22 February 2019

Cutting Comments and Catherine Wheels

Watching 'The Last Leg' this week I heard a comment made by Tom Allen, English comedian, that spoke straight into some of the thinking I have been doing lately. He said (something like), 'I have a feeling those trolls on Twitter would have been the same people that made sure they were in the front row of a public hanging.' In every age there seems to be a way of shaming people into submission. Public executions were a form of control and power over the masses. Using fear as a motivation, the authorities would enforce discipline by holding individuals up as an example. We may not be as physically brutal in today's society, however, there are equivalents in how we 'crucify' people in social media and the media at large.

I have always been quite taken by the Catherine Wheel firework. Initially, as a child, this fascination was about how special it was to have such a beautiful thing that had been given my name. It was a firework that lasted longer than others, was closer (being on the ground) and was exciting. Later, I learnt how the Catherine Wheel earned its name. It is named after St Catherine of Alexandria.

St Catherine (287-305AD) was a princess and scholar living in the time of the pagan emperor Maxentius, known for his cruel ways. Legend states, at the age of 14 she became a Christian after experiencing visions of Mary and the Christ Child. Catherine went to Maxentius to appeal to him to turn from his cruel ways of persecution against Christians. The emperor ordered her execution. He brought 50 orators and scholars to speak with Catherine and give her a chance to change her ways. Her words were spoken so well that many of these 50 converted to Christianity and were immediately executed.

Catherine was arrested, imprisoned and tortured. News of her immense faith spread and over 200 people came to visit her. Maxentius' last attempt to bring her around to his way of thinking was to ask for her hand in marriage. Catherine refused. She was sentenced to execution by breaking wheel, a torturous and painful way to die. As Catherine was brought before the wheel, she touched it and it shattered into many pieces. The emperor ordered that she be immediately beheaded.

And so, the Catherine Wheel is also a symbol of faith, integrity and strength in the face of adversity. We may not be faced with the same fate as these martyrs from times long gone, but we may encounter ridicule, hateful words, slander or misrepresentation. When the fear of speaking out has silenced me and shoved me back in my box, the Catherine Wheel is a good reminder, a visual reminder, to stay firm in my inner faith, to speak with integrity and have courage in expressing my truth to others. A Catherine Wheel is bold, demands to be seen and is full of fire and passion. What an awesome image to hold in a world that can still be very cruel.

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