The [Continuing] Story of Freedom

I don’t know about you guys, but most of what we have talked about this week, I find distasteful. There are few things that infuriate me more than the abuse of power, and it’s only worse when it is a powerful man abusing young women. perhaps at least some of them were willing to play the game, after all ‘the casting couch’ is a cliché for a reason, but why, exactly, should they have to. Yes, people will always abuse power, if they can, but we do not have to let them. In any case that was part of the reason that this week’s picture post was about Navy Day, not that they don’t deserve the recognition. I had simply had enough, and most of what I had was about Weinstein. Yuck! As I said today in a comment, Lord Acton was correct, “The love of power corrupts, and the love of absolute power corrupts, absolutely.”

One of the things I do when I get in this spot is to go back in our earlier posts, usually Jessica’s. She had a way of making things clear, no matter how much mud was spattered about, and it is one of the things I miss most about her. Some of her basic goodness comes through in those posts, and they help me, and I hope they help your morale as well. In her post from December 30, 2012, she reminds us that our freedom has a long history which is intertwined in British and American history. Here she takes us back to show us that the original resistance to secular tyranny came from none other than the Church, in our case through the Archbishop of Canterbury St Thomas Becket and thence to another Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton, who stood up to King John of infamous memory. But let her tell it, she tells it much better than I do. here’s my dearly beloved dearest friend, Jessica.

The story of Becket reminds us of the eternal conflict between the Church and the State. It is the natural wish of the latter, whether in the guise of a king, an aristocracy or ‘the people’ to encompass as much power to itself as it can. There is only one culture where this has been challenged successfully, and it is that of the Latin West. For all the atheists’ charge that the Church has been some sort of dictator, it never has been; indeed it has been the bridle on that happening in our societies.

I mentioned Stephen Langton yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury whom King John had refused to accept, and who sided with the Barons in their fight against the King’s tyranny. That does not mean, of course, that the Church has not had times when it has cooperated with tyranny, but it does mean that it has stood out, always, against the State controlling everything. Indeed, it was this example which gave courage to those who came to see the Church itself as a spiritually tyranny, corrupt and refusing to mend its ways. We can argue over the results of that, but what is unarguable is that it is from the deepest part of Christianity that the belief in freedom under God comes.

That qualification matters. Our forefathers did not mistake freedom for license. They knew they would stand one day before God to account for their time here on earth. They knew their sinful ways, they did not blame ‘society’, they knew that sin was an act of will on their part – of sinful rebellion against God. But they also knew that only through freedom could man be truly himself. Like God Himself, they believed in free will. Man was not free when he was in chains – literal and metaphorical ones. The black slaves were in literal chains, their owners in metaphorical ones.

Freedom has a price. Part of that is that we have to bridle ourselves. The excesses of our species when left to itself show why. Made in the image of God, we are capable of deeds of utmost evil, and we can also rise to heights of altruism and love – as the lives of the Saints show us.

We Christians are strangers in this world. We are meant to be the leaven; but too often we are the salt that has lost its savour. America is the one country in the world founded on a vision of how things could be. From its beginning it has taken the hard road of trying to rule itself without kings or aristocracies. It has found itself in some dark places, not least during its Civil War. But it has always valued freedom – and always acknowledged that there is a price to be paid.

There is a long and continuous thread leading from Magna Carta to now. We forget at our peril how unique that story is. You won’t find it elsewhere  – do we cherish it as we should?

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Harvey Weinstein and the Abuse of Power

Well, I’ve grown bored with all the noise about Harvey Weinstein. Mostly now it has become voyeuristic clickbait, as it was always going to simply because there are a (formerly) powerful man and many beautiful women involved, not to mention a few hangers-on. But maybe we can learn some lessons. I think so. And I think Melanie Phillips has taken a good shot at it.

Much has been written, and doubtless much more will be, about the grotesque sexual predations of the Hollywood movie titan Harvey Weinstein. As allegations now come tumbling out from women who say he raped, molested or otherwise sexually abused them, the question is obviously how this never previously came to light since everyone seemed to know about it.

In a particularly fine piece here, Lee Smith suggests that this has only come out now because the media power-structures which ensured silence in the past have collapsed.

The revelation of this past silence has given rise in turn to a debate about whether or not Weinstein’s women victims were complicit in their own abuse. Some did stand up against him; some refused to work for him again and tried to warn others. But many went along with it.

The point is being made that it takes a brave soul indeed to stand up against such a man whose position in the industry meant he could make or break careers. Very true. There are things, though, that surely no self-respecting person would do under any circumstances; presented with the monstrous demands Weinstein was making of them, however, too many women did. Nevertheless, the difficulty of resisting the pressure behind such sexual coercion is obvious.

I think it really takes a lot of guts to resist, remember most of these people were trying to live their dream of being a star. Well, sometimes living a dream has a price, sometimes a very high one. paid in self respect, and that makes you even less likely to tell anyone about it, I think. That Lee Smith article, that Melanie referenced, in the Weekly Standard is amazingly good, by the way, do read it. And there is this.

Such abuse of power is by no means confined to the socially or politically powerful. Rape or other sexual abuse occurs in every stratum of society. At the heart of every sexual attack lies the wish of the perpetrator to exercise power over his (or sometimes her) victim. There is no greater way to exercise that power than through a sexual attack which does not just inflict physical but psychological njury by stripping away the very core of a person’s sense of their own inviolable personhood and human dignity.

The question is whether these attacks are now more numerous than they ever were or whether they are just being noticed more often. Obviously, sexual attack is nothing new; and one can point to many instances where changing social mores mean we are now less tolerant of behaviour that for various reasons went unchallenged in the past –– just as we can also point to precisely the reverse trend.

Nevertheless, I suspect such sexual attacks are in general on the increase, not least because of the breakdown of the traditional family. Before the British government decided to censor the statistics showing the relative rate of abuse by biological and non-biological family members, it was clearly established that sexual and other abuse was committed vastly more frequently by people not biologically related to their victims. Since so many households now contain transient sexual partners, it stands to reason that the rate of abuse including sexual attacks has also exponentially increased.

And there I think Melanie hits right in the middle of the x ring. One of the main places where we learn self-respect is by showing respect to others. This is hard to phrase but easy to understand, if you don’t respect yourself, you are not going to respect anybody else either. St Matthew put it this way, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” See my point here? If you do not love yourself, you cannot love another, It’s true, you know it and I know it. Find a guy or girl who hates themselves, you’ll find someone who loves (or usually even likes) nobody. Where did most of us learn to love? As children in our family. Melanie’s no doubt right, as broken homes and dependency on the cold charity of the state increase, instead of the more or less stable (if sometimes quite raucous) family, crime statistics climb alarmingly. One only has to look at the American black community in the 50s and compare it to today’s. A bit more Melanie.

If you look at tyrants throughout history, you often find that the person who has exercised untrammelled power and committed the most appalling crimes against other people was himself driven by intense feelings of inadequacy, self-disgust and powerlessness.

Is that sense of powerlessness increasing across the board? In an era of acute psychic loneliness, with disintegrating family and social structures and with people feeling they are nothing more than random bundles of atoms being blown hither and yon by an indifferent fate in a universe without meaning, I bet it is.

I think taking that bet would be for suckers, because she is correct.

Bare Ruined Choirs

In Sonnet LXXIII Shakespeare wrote

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long

Not one of his happiest, but it accords well with my feelings, this fall. It hasn’t been a year I would wish on anybody, but this is the season when I understand why All Hollow’s is sometimes called Totenfest by those of German heritage. Tomorrow is the Feast day of Our Lady of Walsingham, and for me, that has significance as well. Six years ago, I had never heard of Walsingham, let alone this representation of Mary, but One summer day in 2012, Jessica became my dearest friend at almost the moment she lit a candle for me at the shrine. The main part of the story begins here. I have ever since found Mary a worthwhile conduit for my prayers. But for me, it’s specifically the Walsingham representation. Earlier this year,  Fr Matthew Pittam wrote in the Catholic Herald about his feeling for the Shrine.

 

Whilst visiting this year I met some other pilgrims who were unfavourably comparing Walsingham to other well-known European Shrines that they had visited. It is true Walsingham is no Lourdes or Fatima but for me that is part of the appeal of the place. It seems right that the English National Shrine is understated, reflecting the character of the English themselves.

The story of Our Lady’s Shrine and the meaning of its message demand a much tenderer charism than Walsingham’s more flamboyant European cousins. Above all Walsingham is a memorial to the Annunciation. The whole place speaks softly of Our Lady’s ‘Yes’ to God. Mary’s encounter with the Angel Gabriel was abundantly full of humility, generosity and peace. The quieter pace and rhythm of our National Shrine really can take us to the heart of this life changing and life-giving moment.

The location of Walsingham is also understated. It is not set amidst mountain grandeur but nestles within the pleasant rolling meadows of the Stiffkey Valley, echoing the gentleness of the shrine’s own spirituality and Our Lady. The whole place seems to be set apart for peaceful encounter.

He nails it for me. Without the slightest intention to be offensive, much of Roman Catholicism is too ornate, too baroque, and the decoration, like some of the verbiage, is over extravagant for me. That’s not a knock on it, it simply doesn’t fit with this working guy of Lutheran Scandinavian heritage. I’m no iconoclast, but enough is enough. Both the Roman Catholic and the Anglo-Catholic shrines at Walsingham have a northern European feel about them, which I find comforting. I’m still of my roots, I have found it comforting to talk with Our Lady, as Jessica once said, it feels rather like talking to Mom, which in a sense it is.

And then there is the relief, that I have felt on several occasions, after talking with Her, usually not the formal Rosary, although I do that sometimes as well, mostly sitting here, meditating silently directed towards Her. The old man’s knees aren’t really up to kneeling much anymore, anyway. 🙂

Strangely, it is only 3 years, nearly to the day, since the Abbess from Walsingham came to Jessica’s hospital bed to pray over her and sprinkle her with Walsingham water, giving her some ease, and then again a mere two weeks later, just after she received the last rites, she again prayed over her and sprinkled her. Two days later she was out of her coma, without pain and cancer free. A remarkable testimony to the power of prayer.

A year after that Mary Katherine Ham lost her husband,  Jake in a bicycle accident while pregnant with their second child. It was one of those things that shocked many of us, this young vibrant couple, and him suddenly gone. She wrote about it this week at The Federalist.

I love the idea of the divine spark. It crosses a lot of cultures and religions, the idea that you carry a bit of the Creator inside you, that it animates your life.

Jake’s life always brings to mind a spark and then some. Jake’s soul, to me, was a bonfire. He was here and he was in your face and he was warm and bright. He roared with enthusiasm at the beginning, even the hope of something new, sometimes a little too much. His glow was infectious, throwing sparks into the night air, silhouetted against a dark sky before they landed on everyone in his vicinity. He mellowed to embers as the night wore on, usually over a glass of bourbon or a beer.

I lived seven years of my life looking into a bonfire. I warmed my hands and found comfort in its flame. There were times when I damn near burnt myself or got a giant waft of smoke at exactly the wrong time.  Because that’s life. And that’s fire. It’s not all s’mores and sweetness.

Everyone who’s loved someone knows that light and warmth. Everyone who’s lost someone knows the feeling when it goes dark and cold one day.

When that happens at any time, it’s jarring. When it happens without warning, even more.

The light went out. This fire I’d stood next to for seven years just went out, like a flood light on a switch. Boom. Imagine staring into a fire, and then suddenly turning 180 degrees to survey the woods behind you. I couldn’t see. I was standing in what otherwise was my life, and I knew all the other parts of it were there, but I couldn’t understand its contours anymore. I was standing in my own life, blinded, blinking away those disorienting shimmery green spots.

Brilliant, simply brilliant. But you know when we lose someone we love, not even always to death, it’s like that as well. It was for me when my marriage broke up, and even though my sisters, parents and brothers-in-law lived full lives, in truth as much as could be expected, they have left a hole, that cannot be filled.

And so it was for me, a year ago today, when I received the last email from  Jessica, who as far as I know is healthy, happy, and busy. Too busy or some other unexplained reason, to maintain the friendship that turned to love on my part, more than I ever felt for another human being. And get your mind out of the gutter, yes she is beautiful, but I loved her before I knew that, far more a case of Agape than Eros. She was my friend, the best one I’ll ever have. And even Our Lady of Walsingham has found no way to comfort me. I’m reconciled that I must go on more alone than I have ever been, but have little appetite for it. Which is why that sonnet speaks loudly to me.

Walsingham, and Our Lady are her legacy to me, and I thank God for them everyday. But it does make me think of another poem.

Weepe, weepe O Walsingham,
Whose dayes are nightes,
Blessings turned to blasphemies,
Holy deeds to dispites.

Sinne is where our Ladie sate,
Heaven turned is to hell,
Sathan sittes where our Lord did swaye,
Walsingham oh farewell.

But it is true that while Eliot was writing of Little Gidding, I’ve always thought that this applied as well to Walsingham

           If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere. Never and always.

We merely have to trust God that Dame Julian of Norwich was correct.

‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’

Jacob Rees-Mogg and Absolute Morality

There has been a bit of commotion over in Britain the last couple of weeks, caused by a Member of Parliament that I’ll bet most Americans have never heard of, and that’s a shame. His name is Jacob Rees-Mogg. His father was William Rees-Mogg who was a former editor of the £ Times newspaper and created a life peer in 1988. Jacob was educated at Eton and in History at Trinity College, Oxford. (Can you say “posh”? I knew that you could.) He created his own financial services company and is the Member for North East Somerset (since 2010). Quentin Letts dubbed him the “Honourable Member for the early twentieth century”. It’s rather humorous, and yet, his accent and manner of dress, and yes his manner of acting play into it. As does that he is proud of being both Catholic and English, something we see far too seldom these days. And that’s why the commotion. The other day he was on Good Morning Britain and some of what he said shocked the hosts rather profoundly.

It’s rather fun to watch Piers Morgan taken apart, apart from the fact that Rees-Mogg is entirely correct for the Catholic Church as well as any orthodox Christian. It is simply what we have always believed everywhere, at all times. Here is exactly how far our churches have descended since the beginning of the twentieth century. And that leads us to something else. Steven Bullivant writing in the Catholic Herald, tells us something about how secular Britain, even its Catholics, are becoming.

How many Catholics actually share Jacob Rees-Mogg’s beliefs?

He is already in a minority simply by attending Mass regularly

Today’s Times carries an interesting – though for many Herald readers deeply dispiriting – article: “Most UK Catholics back right to abortion”. (It’s behind a paywall, but a quick and free registration can get you access.)

I won’t repeat the full thing here – and besides, you can read the full report from the 2016 Brithish Social Attitudes survey, on which the article is based here. But the essential statistics are these: In 2012, 39 per cent of British Catholics thought that abortions should be legal on the simple grounds that “the woman does not wish to have a child”. Now, fully 61 per cent of British Catholics think so.

This is, it must be said, a huge leap in just four years. By comparison, in the 27 years prior to 2012, the proportion of similarly pro-choice Catholics increased by only six percentage points (from 33 per cent in 1985). Personally, I’d suggest regarding the specific figures in play here – i.e., 61 per cent of British Catholics; a rise of 22 percentage points – as being illustrative, rather than pin-pointedly precise. (This is due to all the usual caveats regarding sample size, margins of error, etc.) Nevertheless, the general tenor of the statistics, and indeed of the direction of travel, are likely to be trusted.

These figures come at a time when Catholic attitudes to critical moral and social issues are already very much in the news. This is thanks to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s straight-talking statement of the Church’s, and therefore his own, opposition to both abortion and same-sex marriage. It is not surprising, then, that these new BSA data are being used to cast Rees-Mogg’s views as being out of touch even among Catholics themselves.

I addressed the general question of “How odd is Rees-Mogg?” in terms of British social attitudes as a whole on the Spectator’s website over the weekend. How representative, though, is he among his fellow Catholics?

First of all, he is already in a minority of Catholics simply by virtue of being a regular Mass attender: fewer than one in three of cradle Catholics (a good chunk of whom now identify as ‘no religion’, of course), and only about two in five of all those who currently identify as Catholics, say that they attend Mass even as often as once a month (see here).

Accordingly, it would be interesting to see what difference there is between practising Catholics and non- or irregularly-practising Catholics on attitudes towards abortion and other subjects. I suspect that among them Mr Rees-Mogg’s views would find much greater (though not at all unanimous) agreement.

Even so, these new statistics are a sobering indicator (as we didn’t have enough of them already) of just how far British Catholics have secularized. So too, for that matter, is the furore surrounding Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Part of what I find disheartening in this is that even as we, in the US, appear to be winning the battle on abortion, and we have public opinion on our side on same sex marriage as well. It was simply established by a federal court acting extra-constitutionally, if not quite unconstitutionally. But the United Kingdom appears to be still sliding down that slippery slope. But we know that we have seen some very dark places in this battle here as well. And one of the things that is winning for us, is the steadfastness of many Catholics in this battle, who have shown some of us Protestants what we must do to achieve the proper result.

And so, real conservatives in Britain have found someone who speaks eloquently for them, and for us as well. There is a boomlet for him to become the leader of the Conservative Party. It is, at best, very premature and unlikely, but stranger things have happened.

Because a lot of what is happening in Britain these days are very much like those things that have caused us to say here, “That is why you got Trump”. And nothing in my lifetime was more unlikely than that.

He also reminds me of this, from Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream- -and not make dreams your master;
If you can think- -and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on! ‘

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings- -nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And- -which is more- -you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rees-Mogg certainly is, and a most admirable one, as well

Afraid to Teach the Truth

Yesterday we talked of the some of the heroes of 9/11. We know they are men and women that we need to remember because they epitomize the best of us. The same is true in Britain, who (other than America) lost more people on 9/11 than any other country, and whose Queen had no hesitation in expressing her sympathy for America that day.

Nor was it coincidental that the US Marine Band played God Save the Queen at the British Embassy in the aftermath of 7/7. We are both societies that celebrate brave people, and freedom, mostly anyway.

This is from Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch.

This is what a society that has capitulated looks like. UK teachers should teach about 9/11 forthrightly, and explain to their students about the Islamic teachings that motivated it, and the nature and magnitude of the global jihad threat. Instead, they cower in fear of Muslim parents and students. That’s no way to win a war. And they won’t win it.

“Teachers ‘scared’ to teach lessons on 9/11 terror attack,” by Camilla Turner, Telegraph, September 9, 2017:

Some teachers are too scared to discuss 9/11 with their pupils as they fear a backlash from Muslim parents, a leading expert in counter-extremism education has warned.

Kamal Hanif OBE, who was appointed by the Government to turn around three schools at the heart of the “Trojan Horse” scandal, said that some teachers have a “misplaced” concern that they will cause offence if they raise 9/11 in the classroom.

He said that some teachers – particularly those who work in schools with a high proportion of Muslim students – see it as a contentious topic and shy away from teaching it.

“Teachers sometimes have a fear that this might be controversial,” he said.

“[They think] if we teach about this we might get Muslim parents objecting.”

Mr Hanif, who is executive principal of Waverley Education Foundation and has advised the Department for Education (DfE) on combating counter-extremism in schools, said that such views are misguided.

“There is a fear [among teachers] but it is not really grounded in anything,” he said.

Sadly those teachers may have a point, but still, I think it reflects very poorly on them. If that is all the respect that they have for their (which parallels our) history, well, I am pleased that they are not teaching my children but rather dismayed that they are teaching anyone’s.

If one is not proud of one’s heritage, how is it possible for one to teach it, and make no mistake, British teachers are rarely reticent about inserting their views into what is taught to children. The real problem is what those teachers believe. Do they really believe in British society, or are they part of the oft rumored ‘fifth column’? Well, I don’t know, American experience suggests that many of them may simply be poorly educated themselves. Far too often the adage, “Them that can do, them that can’t teach” has been proved right. If so, the Britain, like America, needs educational reform, not from the educational bureaucracy, or the government, but from some representative grouping of the people. Perhaps the parents, maybe?

That is one of the things that are becoming more and more obvious in our countries. Education has become out of touch and out of control of pretty much any responsible party, and the so-called reforms we have seen from the government have been mostly rearranging the deck chair on the Titanic. I think the Titanic may well prove a most appropriate metaphor for government education, oversized, poorly captained, and flooding uncontrollably, because of faulty navigation.

But the Brits, like Americans, are better than some of what we hear, and perhaps they will find a solution, I know many of them are looking.

Requiem for an Engineer

Well, you all know I missed much of the last week. It was not a restful break. I was back east, in Philadelphia, to bury my last brother-in -law. He had a good life, and I suspect he was ready to go. But you know, none of us is generous enough to easily believe that. We are selfish and want our heroes in our world, not the next, no matter how much better it will be.

Because of an unusual family structure, my sisters were about twenty years older than me, so in some ways, he was also almost my second father. To be sure I admired and respected him more than any person other than my own father, whom I respected more than any man living or dead. And I still think, at a remove of thirty years since his death, deservedly so. But Dan was much the same man.

By profession, he was a civil engineer, his early career with the Pennsylvania Railroad, through the sad period when money for maintenance was hard to find, as government interference of many kinds nearly killed the railroads, and after that with a railroad contractor, where I understand when the owner became ill, he simply took over and ran the business without fuss or muss. In fact, his family didn’t know that until last weekend. No doubt he would have said, it needed doing.

He was a published author as well, his memoir of the PRR being published in The Keystone, the main publication of the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society. It is a remarkable document, his memory for people, places, and things, reaching back into the 1950s was exact and as on point as if they had happened last week. And so was the PRR, itself. Essentially a mountain railroad that could haul goods on that great trade route, New York to Chicago, for the same price per ton-mile, and at the same speed, as the New York Central whose route was almost devoid of grades. It was done by ruthlessly good engineering in all departments.

He served in the Corps of Engineers during the Korean Conflict, although he almost never referred to it, perhaps because he was assigned to Paris. Not too shabby a duty station in my mind. But perhaps the army also thought well of him, his honor guard last week was commanded by a full colonel of cavalry.

He also at some point held almost every leadership position in his church, serving as treasurer for many years, and very rarely missing a service.

After a rather whirlwind romance ( a bit over six months!) he was married to my oldest sister for about 60 years until her death a few years ago. They were well matched; she’s still the only person I ever heard of who asked for extra homework – in math!

And so goes my last contact with what was. I had somewhere around 40-50 first cousins, now we are perhaps a half dozen, if that. In the time honored American tradition, we scattered to the corners of the country and lost contact amongst ourselves. I can remember family reunions with more than a hundred people, but that was almost 60 years ago, and I doubt we will ever see their like again. I surely won’t.

Like most of us who reach a certain age, I look back wistfully at what was, but mostly what I see is a collection of village graveyards. They are all gone, to be seen again only at the resurrection, but you know, they are here as well. We, in all we are and do, are their legacy, and it is a challenge to live up to them. It was Dan’s wife who first coined the saying about the men in our family, all engineering types: “If it’s not absolutely right, it’s completely wrong”. It’s how my dad lived his life, as did both of my brothers-in-law and me as well. Doesn’t make us the easiest people to live with, or so said mom, my sisters, and my ex-wife, but it is necessary in jobs dealing with forces that can kill you quick.

And so we go on, as before, but I will admit, I do so with a heavy heart, the best parts of my life on this earth are gone. It appears to be a very gray future, and I too am slowing down, and finding it not a bad thing to do so. There are still things I would like to do, but am pretty sure I won’t, both professionally and personally. The ambition to see projects through just doesn’t seem to be there anymore, and there is really no one left to impress, the last of those, living and dead, gone into the shade of death, or having found better things to do than spend time with the old man. And having taken much of his ability to trust people with them. But you know, Kipling still speaks for us.

THE Sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary’s Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.

It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and cushion the shock.
It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that the switches lock.
It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care to embark and entrain,
Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by land and main.

They say to mountains, ” Be ye removèd” They say to the lesser floods ” Be dry.”
Under their rods are the rocks reprovèd – they are not afraid of that which is high.
Then do the hill tops shake to the summit – then is the bed of the deep laid bare,
That the Sons of Mary may overcome it, pleasantly sleeping and unaware.

They finger death at their gloves’ end where they piece and repiece the living wires.
He rears against the gates they tend: they feed him hungry behind their fires.
Early at dawn, ere men see clear, they stumble into his terrible stall,
And hale him forth like a haltered steer, and goad and turn him till evenfall.

To these from birth is Belief forbidden; from these till death is Relief afar.
They are concerned with matters hidden – under the earthline their altars are
The secret fountains to follow up, waters withdrawn to restore to the mouth,
And gather the floods as in a cup, and pour them again at a city’s drouth.

They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose.
They do not teach that His Pity allows them to leave their job when they damn-well choose.
As in the thronged and the lighted ways, so in the dark and the desert they stand,
Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren’s days may be long in the land.

Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood to make a path more fair or flat;
Lo, it is black already with blood some Son of Martha spilled for that !
Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness to any creed,
But simple service simply given to his own kind in their common need.

And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessèd – they know the angels are on their side.
They know in them is the Grace confessèd, and for them are the Mercies multiplied.
They sit at the Feet – they hear the Word – they see how truly the Promise runs.
They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and – the Lord He lays it on Martha’s Sons !

So it has always been, is now, and shall always be, as long as this is our world.

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