( Originally Published Early 1900's )
BY CHARLES FOLKARD
AT THE CRISIS OF LIFE.
BY SIR LAURENCE GOMME.
DURING the crisis that is working itself out now, it seems to me that the springs of human existence are so tense that every feeling and attribute are magnified the greatness and the littleness of us, the hopes and the fears, the looking backward and the looking forward, the real and the ideal, even the imaginative and the creative. And if this is a right conclusion to have drawn it follows that moments like the present have one great lesson for all humanity, namely, that life is a serious responsibility. Life comes to us without knowledge on our part and death arrives without knowledge, and between the two events there is something we call life. We take to it for the most part casually and carelessly. We fit in with our environment without question or comment. We subscribe to the religion of our fathers ; we follow the usual moral rules in more or less strictness. And as religion and morality change with the centuries we accept the changes without hesitation, and the complacency is carried on one generation further on. I hope this is not an unfair estimate of ordinary life in the western world. I know it is appalling and quite unworthy of the experience which is ours if we would but seek it.
There are so many great things to do in the world. Science works its way within a century to an enormous result, and we use it to hurtle shot and shell at each other. We cannot spell even the elements of religion. Just now a stupid discussion is going on in the papers on the subject of religion, and the war and Christianity is being tossed to and fro between the disputants without an effort to understand the position held by Christianity among the religions of the world. The Christianity that is being invoked is not the teaching of Christ. It is the derelict paganism of the old world plus the sayings of the greatest of all teachers. And they don't agree in combination. They allow the German Emperor and those who think with him to call forsooth upon the God of battles as his peculiar and special duty. He walks with the Deity. He has treasured moments with Him And when this Deity is examined it is merely the colossal ego of the man every muscle and fibre of Wilhelm II. is extended until it reaches beyond the real and then it is given a place in the heavens where the gods do dwell. What the German Emperor does on the big scale, each one of us does on a small scale, and we think of the God of the Christians as every people have thought of the gods of their worship. In the meantime the teaching of the Great Teacher is dead within us. The gospel of love, preached for the first time in the history of humanity, lies buried beneath the theology that has been heaped over it.
This may be a hard saying. It comes from the stress of things. It is in direct contrast to the true conditions. There is a place in the world for all of us and for all our faculties. If we are weak in one we are strong in others, and the whole burden of life is thrown upon the strongest faculties. The real tragedy is that we do not always know where lies the weakness and where the strength, except of course when it is expressed in physical unfitness.
One does not know whether modern civilisation will bear the strain of present thought or whether having produced its Shakespeares, its Darwins, and its hosts in physical science, it will crumble up as the older civilisations crumbled. We did not follow on from the glories of Greece and Rome. We went back for generations and are only just now coming into line with all that antiquity had accomplished. The question is, Shall we dissipate our chances ? And the answer comes perhaps from the present wave of enforced seriousness in our lives which may make us think less of the make-believe and more of the reality of what is before each one of us at the moment when we reckon up the place that is ours in the world.
These are only rough jottings from my study, thoughts which arise whether I will or no, and if they help others to think, even if it is to think differently, the end of this small contribution to the Gift Book will have been met. It may help even those afflicted with blindness to realise that there is more to do with one's life than to see the material side of the world, even the beautiful side there is the eternal question, ever put by man during his long existence: What part do I play in the universe ?