REFLECTING ON OLD VOLUMES
As a dedicated bibliophile one of my great joys is flipping through volumes in my library. A couple of weeks ago I picked up a collection of T.S. Eliot and thumbed through. I stopped and read through, over and over again, these amazing lines from The Rock.
But it seems that something has happened that has never
happened before: though we know not just when, or why,
or how, or where.
Men have left G O D not for other gods, they say, but for no god;
and this has never happened before.
That men both deny gods and worship gods, professing first
And then Money, and Power, and what they call Life, or Race,
The Church disowned, the tower overthrown, the bells upturned,
what have we to do
But stand with empty hands and palms turned upwards
In an age which advances progressively backwards?
I remember reading Eliot long ago attempting to define the subtle nuances in his pre-Christian writing from his Christian reflections and being very confused. Eliot is so smart that many of his literary references are beyond me. But here, in these lines, I feel the frustration of man who views himself a relic in a changing world. The things which he values were shifting quickly.
These lines were written before World War II but they so adequately describe the world which was shaped from that great tragedy. Whatever world Eliot lived in, I can’t imagine a society walking more backward than the one in which we live in now. Civility is gone and the barbarian horde grunts its way through the world shouting slogans and repeating clichés destroying institution after institution. Governments are nothing more than mob rule, higher education no longer emphasizes reflection or wisdom. Much of the church is mere marketing. Dignity has been transmuted into vulgarity. And what of the family? Well, there is that.
I was talking to a good friend of mine last week and we spoke about that feeling we each have of being a dinosaur. Values, ideals, and beliefs about the world which are so important to me seem to not be important to many people right now. What have I to do; what have we to do, but stand with palms turned toward heaven in worship of the One True God as the rest of the world devolves.