Celebration of a once and future princess
As a volunteer
for the Diana A Celebration exhibition, I have spent the last few weeks
as a guide on the exhibition floor. What has struck me more than
anything else is the quiet almost reverential awe of the visitors.
It seems to me that something is happening that I can’t quite comprehend
much less put a name to.
As I walk through the exhibition rooms, I find myself remembering the day
of Diana’s funeral and wondering if it all started there, this transformation
from troubled individual to larger-than-life heroine.
I think about my first impressions of Diana. From what I read in
the papers, I perceived her as a shy, protected girl, chosen by a prince
to became the mother of future kings. Then spurned and betrayed,
she fell from grace, and the world seemed to find endless fascination in
her confusion and pain. Unexpectedly she died, end of story.
Except that during those few days of her laying in state, in some way that
defies reason, she became venerated and loved beyond all expectation.
And now today, almost a decade after her untimely death, I cannot help
but believe that in some unfathomable way, she is biding her time in some
mythical realm, eventually to be reborn as a symbol of courage and hope.
But a myth is not born overnight. Today she rests on a quiet island,
in the tranquil countryside of England, almost but not quite forgotten.
For here in Toronto and traveling the world is a celebration of her life,
a reminder of that moment when she drew the world to her in a profound
expression of human grief and longing. This was the first hint of
the mythic power that seems to inhabit her memory.
However time is needed for the facts of her life to fade and the legend
to grow. How it will it happen? Perhaps by century’s end, someone
seeking inspiration will look across the Oval Lake to the Isle of Diana
and have a vision of a princess. Perhaps the visitor will hear the
words of Diana, words inscribed on the exhibition wall, “To all those in
distress they have but to call out, and I will come to them wherever they
are.” And people will come to “visit with Diana.”
Or some imagined miracle will grip a visitor to the small memorial that
marks the place where she died in a Paris underpass, and the media will
take up her cause.
I can imagine
a future generation with no memory of a vulnerable woman who died so tragically
reading the thousands upon thousands of pages filled with tribute to a
dead princess. As they read these volumes of praise, they will be
awed by all that she did for others.
To a future generation she could well become a symbol of how to live in
the world. She could become an image of woman, strong, opened hearted,
loving. Or her memory could shape itself into some as yet unimagined
manifestation of saint/goddess/princess. Only time will tell.
Coming out of my reverie, I look about the Diana exhibit and wonder if
I have been caught up in the magic that surrounds this once and future
princess, Maybe this is the simple explanation to what happens as
one walks through the exhibition. However, I prefer to think that
I have been given a glimpse into what might yet come to pass.
For details re: Diana as a secular saint,
go to http://home.earthlink.net/~hipbone/Diana.html
and "find" austin repath OR
Diana as first postmodern saint; Mother Teresa as last
(written shortly after her death by Austin Repath)
Mother Teresa worked within a world of God. She
served with a loving heart untold numbers of the poor. Diana lived within
a secular world. Typical of out times she experienced anxiety and fear;
She suffered the breakdown of her marriage, and the total loss of her privacy.
Yet in her dying she drew to her unbelievable numbers of people who found
themselves grieving, yet almost miraculously with their heart open in a
way they had not expected.
The world found itself in a moment of silent communion
that is as far beyond explanation as it is amazing. Such a moment still
precious and still present draws us into such speculations as these. Have
we witnessed the end of sainthood as we have known it? Are we witnessing
a return of a state that can perhaps only be suggested by the term open
It is wild speculation to suggest that whatever
that energy is that one attempts to define by such words as spirit, divine,
or Christlike is once again finding a way to reach down to us. It happened
with the cruel but not
uncommon death of a carpenter. However blasphemous it sounds (and it
does sound thus to my ears) something perhaps not dissimilar happened with
the frightening but not uncommon death of a princess.
God, they say works, in strange ways. And I'm not
at all sure that this is but the beginning.