The generation that can remember the Great War is almost gone. Victoria reigned for decades, but those born under her rule have nearly vanished. There was a time when much of what we take for granted, some good things and some bad, did not exist. Those that remember the days before easy air travel and easier communication are passing away.
I was reminded of this in reading of the memorial service for the last Titanic survivor. There is now nobody left alive who sailed on the ill fated ship. The crew and passengers of the liner are now all united in the journey no man can put off for long.
It would be easy to be melancholy in the face of such autumnal news, but Tennyson was wise when he had his King Arthur say at death:”The old order changeth, yielding place to new,/And God fulfills Himself in many ways,/ Lest one good custom corrupt the world . . . ”
The sin of clinging to an old good is an easy sin to commit. It is the sin of Tolkien’s Elves who would not let Middle Earth change as it should have changed and so gave room for Sauron’s power to be preserved as well as their own. Old goods can become new evils when allowed to cling too long to life . . . like Christmas ornaments left up until March what was once festive becomes sad and ugly.
Much of what we now take for granted will seem quaint or even wicked to the generations that will come. I suspect they will look at our sexual “liberation” with horror, though one hopes there is not too great a swing in the opposite direction. They may thank us for some changes, but even those changes may have passed away giving way to some better goods.
There will be a few last survivors of this age . . . many clinging with Hitchen’s like certainty that all the twentieth and early twenty-first century beliefs could have worked out if they only had more time. It will be a bit charming to see the old rogues like aged Enlightenment sinners dying in Victoria’s Age . . . more pitiable than fearful.
What should I do today in the light of life’s transitions?
Cling to what is permanent, but let go of what is not lasting. This life is perhaps the best example of what must be given back to God. So many of us cling fiercely to this life, but it must end lest in dragging on it becomes wearisome to the possessor.
I hope to look forward with open eyes, grasping at nothing, now and at the hour of my death.