We moderns, or post-moderns some of us, think that humanity has reached the pinnacle of its greatness. Some are so sure of this that they cannot imagine us going any higher, and so they prophesy imminent collapse. There will always be worry warts.
The truth is, I believe, that humanity has not reached a pinnacle, though we may be very close, as a herd of animals, to possibly the broadest and most universal famine of spiritual and creative vitality that history has ever seen.
Western civilisation’s leaders seem either quite willing to hand us over to annihilation, or incapable of realizing that we are poised so close to the edge. The edge of what?
As usual, barbarians ring us and are closing in more and more tightly. The collapse of meaningful language has let truth skip away from us. We no longer have the vocabulary to let us identify who the enemy really is. We swat at flies while predators eye us from the bush.
But as I said, the ancient world is not dead. The modern world with all its glamour and its clamor—is there a difference?—is actually an interruption of true civilization, one of those dark ages that we read about in the history books. Dark ages don’t seem dark to the people living in them sometimes.
So we think our technical advancements are terrific? Yes, they are, at least some of them. It flatters us to think that though we might share plumbing, flushing toilets, and central heating with some of our more illustrious predecessors, they didn’t have cars, airplanes, open-heart surgery or cell phones.
And though we look for other intelligent life forms among dolphins and whales and in the far reaches of outer space, we seem to have forgotten to look for intelligence among those of our own species. Instead, we burn ourselves out as fuel to promote our culture of consumption.
In the jungle, in the mountains, on land nobody wants, among people that no one thinks worth bothering about, in the islands of the sea, the ancient world is still alive. There are people in remote places still free, still human, speaking not with forked tongue or double heart.
They don’t care that they haven’t got cell phones. Few of them need open heart surgery. Most of them would rather live and take their chances against nature than be turned into cyborgs, part human, part device. Sure, many of them have indoor plumbing, electricity and central heating, but they could as easily live without.
I sit in my darkening house, eying peacefully the onset of night, simply enjoying the evening. I don’t light a lamp unless there’s something I need to look at closely. My ears are unplugged from constant music because I want to hear the world of sound.
I won’t be a prisoner of time.
The rain falls. I feel it coolly anointing my head, face, my bare torso as I walk through the forest trees. The air is brisk and cold, but inside I am warm. I am a citizen of the world. This is my planet. This is where I was born, where I belong. I am at home here.
I can’t be curfewed.
I am an ancient man. I read and write books. I think. I meditate on the words of holy and divine scripture. I am patient. I can wait for the interruption of the ancient world to end, and end it will. I will live to see it. I am living in it now, but it will increase as light increases, as light is always stronger than darkness, without struggling, by only shining.
The snow of this morning fell amply and coated trees, fields and streets with whiteness. It came quickly and forcefully and then, just as quickly, but quietly, melted away. Now the world is moist with its melting, drinking in the liquid potion of its renewed life.
Now the light is breaking. It will be fully day soon.
The ancient world is alive because only what is ancient is perennially renewed. It is coming, and this is no poem. This is faith, trust and certainty in the loving providence of God. He is our God, and we are the people He pastures, the flock that He guides.
‘Our Redeemer’ is His ancient name.
The God who loves me is coming.
“And there was evening, and there was morning—day one.”
Originally posted December 29, 2010