Tuesday, January 1, 2008

LOOKING BEHIND AND AHEAD

The first month of the year is named for Janus. As god of gates and doors, Janus was thought to be able to see back into the past, and forward into the future. While I have no special insight into what hasn’t happened yet, I believe it important to live in the present keeping an eye on the past and what that suggests for the way ahead. Janus is an apt image for this blog.

For some, looking to the past summons up old memories of bad history teachers, and hopes that there is a place reserved for them in one of the circles of Dante’s Hell. To be deprived by boredom of the tools to study history may well be criminal, but certainly no greater than the tolerance of such ignorance by adults. Re-imagining the past is what we do of our own lives all our lives. If we are to attempt to look to the future with anything more than resignation as that which we cannot change, it behooves us to acquire both the taste and skill of re-imagining how we came to be where we are now.

Someone who has helped me in this task is
Thomas Cahill. About his “Hinges of History” series of books, he writes:

"We normally think of history as one catastrophe after another, war followed by war, outrage by outrage — almost as if history were nothing more than all the narratives of human pain, assembled in sequence. And surely this is, often enough, an adequate description. But history is also the narratives of grace, the recountings of those blessed and inexplicable moments when someone did something for someone else, saved a life, bestowed a gift, gave something beyond what was required by circumstance."


When I thought of what I want this blog to do, I thought of
Wendell Berry, a farmer, essayist, conservationist, novelist, teacher, poet, who was born in 1934. These are his words:

“The most alarming sign of the state of our society now is that our leaders have the courage to sacrifice the lives of young people in war but have not the courage to tell us that we must be less greedy and wasteful.”

The question for me is whether we now have the courage to say “No!” to the former and “Yes!” to the latter. As you have already seen from the words introducing this blog, his words set our course:

“The past is our definition. We may strive, with good reason, to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it, but we will escape it only by adding something better to it.”

Whether or not the past has been forced on us, or whether we helped to create it by our actions or inactions, this blog is one piece of how I want to add “something better to it”? I hope you will join me in this venture.
- Milo

2 comments:

Bruce said...

Thank you, Milo! This is Bruce Case from Mississippi. Jen and I had the pleasure of serving in Alaska with you for a brief time. I love Wendell Barry, and I appreciate your reminder to remain truthful to our past-- but to not let the horrific times engulf those moments of grace we have all experienced as well. There is a balance, isn't there. Today I vow to remember well, to embrace it all, and to add something to it that might benefit humankind. Not sure what that will be yet, but I'm thinking. The day is still young. I will be praying for this legislation in Oregon. Hopefully, one day, all couples will be honored and protected in our nation. Grace and Peace to all.

Milo said...

Good to hear from you Bruce!

We are hoping that the judge will lift the injunction in February. Even if he does the struggle is not over. The opponents of the legislation are likely to seek another referendum to overturn it. The struggle for basic rights goes on.