Last Sunday evening my daughter gave an outdoor party for her family. It was a rewarding occasion. Her three children were there, with their boyfriends and girlfriends. All highly educated, all in good jobs – and an atmosphere of shared love, which allowed for argument, humour and teasing. It was a boon for an old man who likes to think that the meaning of his life is best expressed in the quality of his descendants.
The weather was perfect, but the evening wore on and the chill of dusk gradually replaced the sun. And then, because I let my mind wander, I remembered the scenes from photographs or reconstructions of, say, 1912. Then, it would seem, the sun always shone, the women were always beautiful – and the great British Empire gave us riches and absolute security. But they did not watch the sun; they were not ready for the darkness.
The first World War seems to have started by a series of chances triggered by an assassination in a far off country. Over a brief period old jealousies, old enmities and old fears led to increasing confrontations which led step by step to the utter darkness of 28th of July 1914. And in the cocoon of that war lay the egg of a second war a generation or so ahead. And, after this war, armaments were developed which could destroy whole countries in just a few hours. We chose the temporary safety of bluff at the risk of almost inconceivable calamity. Perhaps we didn’t choose, it happened because we did not know how to stop it happening.
We all read the news. We see an insoluble Middle East, largely born from our greedy mistakes, we see great nations – who, working together, could repair the world – uneasy, suspicious and raising the stakes. We see a minor Far Eastern nation threatening us with the weapons we invented. We see globalisation turning into dog in the manger. The tensions between the bourgeoisie and the hard left show that we have not yet learned the painful lesson of Marxism or the injustices which made it possible..
“The past is another country, they do things differently there.” No they don’t. They do exactly the same, while thinking that the outcome will be different. You will not be surprised that as the sun went down over that gay party of young people, I was frightened of the night to come.
Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.
It’s jolly difficult to foresee the future. For myself, I divide the world into three. (1) Excluding the problem of N.Korea, my hope is that the Far East will continue on a peaceful and prosperous path.(2) The Americas should continue to do well. (3) Africa, the Middle East, and Europe will have major problems as populations continue to double and Islam spreads over and takes over the whole region. Perhaps, if peace-loving Muslims can cope with the exremists, it may not be too bad. A major danger is that the Talaban or even more extreme exremists will take over Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. They may use it and then Quentin’s gloom may well be justified.
My guess is that if you went back to any time in history, they would say that the world was in a mess, and very bad things might well happen … At the same time, there were always optimistic people, who thought that all was working towards goodness (sadly, I’ve never been the optimistic sort – but I well remember, in the 1960s, thinking that the atom bomb would NOT be used – as many people thought).
Dusk is a good time. It sounds like “the atmosphere of shared love” you describe, Quentin, was good also.
And, according to GS it is a flattering light. In it, an attorney’s elderly, ugly daughter could very well pass for forty three!
Henri Nouwen talks about the twilight zones in our hearts that we cannot see. He says they can be seen by those who love us. He encourages us to listen to our friends with humility and trust. Even though we already know a lot about ourselves, these others can see things about us we cannot see.
I like to think of Jesus as such a friend. He sees us in the twilight of our world and in the twilight of who we are; even when we already know a lot about our history and about ourselves. He tells us about the inevitability of wars (Mark12: 7-8).
So I think it is a response of humility and trust in Him that is called for in the twilight time of softness and uncertainty. Trust when he tells us not to worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself, (Matt 6: 34).
Reading Quentin’s recent blog he has certainly opened up a huge yet sad tale of misery selfishness and loss of life spanning many centuries let alone the latter years of personal memories.
I suppose the upsetting scenario of life on this planet both now and in the past that Quentin speaks of must in no small way be attributed to the selfishness of mankind. The root cause of most if not all previous conflicts and those of the present day seem to stem from the selfish desire of a group (or individual) that wants their own way and is prepared to go to any length to get it. No amount of discussion or reasoning changes them and the final answer is the conflicts that we have seen and still do.
I am reminded of two separate unions that several years were serving two workforces of the same skills. The sense in combining to form one union was established but the two Presidents could not agree who should be the head of the combined union. The difficulty that arose was so bad that it got much worse and could not be resolved and finally both unions closed down and ceased to exist.
Without being at all sanctimonious we are celebrating the life and death of Jesus this weekend – the one person who taught love and forgiveness during the whole of his ministry on earth. The fact that he did shows that God knows how all the humans He created thinks and the weaknesses that they have and our need for his teaching to hit home at all times and in all situations.
Quentin’s account of all the upheavals and misery both now and during world history (and potentially ahead of us all too) emphasises that His teaching (or if you don’t share the belief at least the fundamental truth of what he taught) is the only way for us as individuals and as nations of the world to live peacefully.
War is the result of sin. We are all sinners but war is due to our stubborn refusal to reject sin. When war does come some of us enjoy it. It has been described as glorious. Throughout history, warriors have been seeking glory. The Vikings were a particular example of this, both as pagans and as Christians. Napoleon and his armies built monuments to the glory of war. Our churches are filled with memorials to our glorious dead.
I am not trying to belittle the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for what they believed in. However we must cease this glorification of war. It is not glorious to have your innards scattered across a battlefield. Ask any of the survivors of war and they will tell you (if they can talk about it) just how horrible the experience was. Many never get over it.
We pray fervently in times of war and the places of worship are full. But when the peace comes we soon fall back into our old ways. Let us begin to pray for those suffering now and pray that we will be spared similar misfortunes. I feel that the western world will suffer a catastrophic war due to the wholesale acceptance of abortion and the rejection of Christ our Saviour.
We are at war already , just that it has not yet been declared as such.
For decades we have waged war on the unborn. The most defenseless and the easiest of targets. The death toll already runs into untold millions world wide and there are no plans for it to cease, or even to be reduced, only to get bigger, more vicious and encompass more of those who cannot protest for themselves.
If we can do this so easily to the unborn , why not those who are born? We long ago crossed the line that was a barrier of sorts so there can be no going back. Humanity has been cheapened to the extent that it is of no consequence.
Yes, its hard not to get a sense of that ‘rough beast slouching towards Bethelehem’ once again. But I wonder if that is just age. like Quentin though I fear it is not and that some balance is tipping towards collapse and we will be forced to live again in ‘interesting times’.