Living in normal times
December 4, 2011 by Bill
The majority of us, I am sure, feel that we are living in abnormal times. Are we really? The historian and the anthropologist would say that we’re living in perfectly NORMAL times. When you look at past civilizations and the crimes… wars… conflicts… trials… collapse, violence and instability have been the rule rather than the exception.
My life for instance has been perfectly normal, as has yours. I was born right after WW One… endured with my parents the Depression… saw the dustbowl days of Oklahoma… lived with the exploits of Pretty Boy Floyd… John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde… spent summer with my grandparents in West Texas living on parched soil and praying for rain to fill the rain barrels and cisterns… my children were born during WW Two when Hitler was marching… I was a father during the days of the Berlin airlift… the Korean war… the cold war… and Viet Nam… and as a US Marine Corps pilot I helped my country in WW Two and Korea… and counseled my own son as his time came for Viet Nam. So do you see what I am saying? ALL OF MY LIFE I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR NORMAL TIMES WHEN ALL OF MY LIFE I HAVE BEEN LIVING IN NORMAL TIMES.
So, I ask, what can I depend on in these normal times? Where can I find solid ground beneath my feet? I found my answer in Emerson. “Nothing is secure but transition and the energizing spirit. No love can be bound by oath or covenant to secure it against a higher love, and no truth so sublime but it may be trivial tomorrow in the light of new thoughts.”
What can I depend on in the living of these normal days? Not the clichés of faith, hope and love, but on the solid mature values of faith, hope and love I can depend, and that is the solid ground beneath my feet. It does not bother me that love is an evolving value… it will still be love. It does not bother me that truth today may be falsehood tomorrow in the light of new truth… it will still be truth as an evolving principle. “Time makes ancient good uncouth, they must upward and onward who would keep abreast of truth.” – James Russell Lowell. Truth flows. It is never static or frozen.
Our dreams cannot all be achieved in our lifetime, therefore we are saved by HOPE. The true and the good cannot even make complete sense in any immediate context of history, therefore we are saved by FAITH. And nothing we do can be accomplished alone, therefore we are saved by LOVE. On these ultimate values, WE CAN DEPEND, and the ground stays solid beneath our feet in these perfectly normal times.
The past is much more than a chamber of horrors… wars and rumors of war. It is a spacious country of the mind and soul of our species where thousands of saints, poets, artists, writers, philosophers, and musicians wrote, painted and sang, and do so today in our own time.
Homer has more readers today than in his own time. The Greek poets and philosophers fill every library in every university and college. Plato is being discovered by thousands, every day of every new year. Bach stimulates more awe and wonder today than in his own time.
In every period of history there have been those who have lifted the vision past the apparent crisis to a tomorrow bright with promise, with faith and hope. They call our attention to the light that can overcome the darkness and burn brightly once again.
Twenty-five thousand years ago, an artist lived in days of terrible perils, where survival was all that mattered. Animals and disease and little food and water, and hostile people of the same species were a constant threat. And yet, there, 25,000 years ago in a cave, a sensitive artist, a lover of the beautiful, rose from that rubbled floor, squinted through the smoke of a sputtering torch, and with some kind of faith and hope, decorated the ceiling with works of beauty that have endured for 25,000 perilous years.
May you and I, in our own normal and perilous times, bring some truth, some beauty and some hope to our own place.