It is the second-last month of 2020. How the year has flown in spite of the drudgery and slowness that beset us during the past eight months because of the pandemic, when each day seemed to be the same as the day before and the day after.
November is also one of those months when the past crowds in on us, preceded by Thanksgiving and Halloween. Then comes All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1 and Remembrance Day on Nov. 11, when we relive the great moments of yesterday and think of those into whose inheritance we have entered.
This month is a month to keep alive a tradition, to give thanks to God for the past and to dedicate ourselves to the unfinished task of our veterans.
But often we are quite casual with traditions. It is so easy to conclude that nobody in the past had any significance until we arrived on the scene. Therefore, it is good for us to halt every now and again and go over the road our beloved veterans have travelled.
Had we known history better, we would not be so disturbed today. A nation is judged by the kind of men of the past it honours.
In the past, even last century, there was the company of people who, by the mercy of God and their own gallantry, maintained freedom, the taste of which we continue to enjoy.
They fought a war they neither created nor wanted.
They came from many homes — rich and poor, educated or uneducated. Either way, it was not without a cost that the freedom they achieved for us is being maintained today.
Their faces we shall never see again, their hands we shall never grasp again, their voices we shall never hear again. Their eyes will not see us. Their limbs will never grow again, their minds will never think again.
We remember them in gratitude before God. The great and the good multitudes who bore the testimony of good conscience, who fought a good fight and finished their course.
Going back in history has its peril, too. The traditionalists among us could be in danger of living in the past rather than in the present.
Someone has said history is the record of what man thinks of himself, of other and of God.
Movements and institutions that have outlasted time have always been built upon these three convictions.
Nothing is permanent in any world order unless it is rooted and grounded in these three: integrity, understanding and reverence.
First of all, history is the record of what man thinks of himself. Movements and institutions will live and last when they are rooted in character.
Well meaning but misguided people are still living today with a comfortable illusion. And because the illusion is so pleasing, it is all the more deadly and fatal.
That illusion is that the enthusiasm for unselfishness and high idealism generated by wars will be permanent.
Many have made themselves believe that the high levels of patriotic devotion, social restraints and self-discipline the wars forced upon us will continue in “peaceful” days. That is a dreadful illusion because history holds no such warrant.
Secondly, history is the record of what man thinks of others. Movements and institutions that last must express themselves in understanding situations better.
To be great, life must have its setting in the framework of the community. To personal integrity must be added compassionate understanding.
It is only when the sense of social responsibility is joined to personal initiative that a nation is safe.
Civilization is not a lonely journey of a lonely soul on the road to a lonely God. It is a pilgrimage on a crowded highway on which we learn to live together for the common good.
Finally, history is the record of what man thinks of God.
Movements and institutions that have outlasted time have always been founded on spiritual principles.
It is possible for man to have personal initiatives and even to have a sense of community-mindedness and still make a wreck of the universe.
How all these need repeating today. We often wonder how the world turned out the way it has.
And what has happened to us that times like these should come to pass?
Of course, we always had the answer. We talk much about economic disaster because of the pandemic, inequality among the races, social injustice, political chicanery and crackpot ideologies.
It is true all these had a part in the darkness that has settled upon the world. But they do not go to the root of the matter.
Befuddling times have come because we lost our moral awareness and the importance of spiritual values.
We thought the absence of faith was a sign of intellectual vigour. We supposed that man was great in proportion as the sense of mystery vanished.
We treated dependence upon God as of little or no importance. We thought of religion as one of the “take-it-or-leave-it” affairs.
But we suddenly discover now that the seeds of national decay lie not in political techniques or social structures, but in the character of its people.
A nation cannot rise above the level of the soul of its people. A new world can only come to pass through newly transformed people.
All the ingenious devices to create goodwill, all the painstaking, meticulous arrangements for world peace will come to nothing if they are placed in the hands of men and women who are unreliable and untrustworthy.
The hope of world peace rests essentially in the conversion of man’s spirit by heeding God’s invitation to turn to him.
Narayan Mitra is a volunteer chaplain at Thompson Rivers University. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. KTW welcomes submissions to its Faith page. Columns should be between 600 and 800 words in length and include a headshot of the author, along with a short bio. Send it via email to email@example.com.