Time for our seasonal pause to consider the fashion of man’s chronicle. Since before Christ, that history is richly indifferent. It sighs and shrugs, then moves on to the next page. It readjusts facts, knows no compassion. History dissects humanity with the indifference of a surgical instructor.
History tempts us with affectionate, anecdotal chronicles of our years here. It makes no obeisance to Tolstoy, who believed in the grand design, nor to Henry Ford, who said history is bunk.
History is not the lofty view, but the chatter of elders over their coffee cups, the student peering at newspaper clippings online or pulled from a folder at the library.
History is the wind ripping up from Texas or roaring in from Alberta, telling us that no matter what we do out here on the plains, we live and die, prosper and perish or simply exist, by Nature’s authority.
My time on this earth, 76 years, is less than a moment in astronomic time. But it is long enough to bear witness, to see fables made of facts and facts from fables, and lately a global, fanatical pursuit of “progress”. As usually defined, progress does not increase happiness, strengthen moral fiber, deepen faith, or generate brotherhood.
At this time of reflection and celebration, consider whether what we call “progress” has worked against man, made him a more efficient killer, a less spiritual being plunging blindly on toward more and more.
In the Smoky Valley and elsewhere, Christmas is for pause, to reaffirm faith, to reinforce a simple thing called heritage.
As the historians Will and Ariel Durant explained, “If progress is real despite our whining, it is not because we are born any healthier, better, or wiser than infants were in the past, but because we are born to a richer heritage, born on a higher level … in the accumulation of knowledge and art … the heritage rises, and man rises in proportion as he receives it.”
Christmas presents an opportunity to capture a small parcel out of that rich storehouse, to revive the heritage of our history, to rekindle the best in ourselves.