Experiencing Old Culture
Having just recently returned from a trip to Europe I am finding that everything they say about international jet-lag is true. Well, maybe it’s not just getting used to the time adjustment as much as all those croissants.
Yes, the food was great, the coffee was excellent, but the big takeaway was the history of buildings, cemeteries, streets, and statues. Any American is immediately aware of the fact that they are visiting in the Old World having traveled from the New.
You are surrounded by manifestations of older culture. Here is where the “Melting Pot” of American immigration began, the origin of surnames, the ports from which our ancestors embarked.
Here is a culture formulated by the first poets, the significant battles, the earliest of philosophies, the alchemy of food and drink, and the experience and expression of medieval Christianity. Most of the time my spirit was stirred and convoluted. It was as if I heard ancient stone masons in the background somewhere beyond the sounds of traffic and conversation. There were the explosions and sirens of wartime followed by the cries of celebration of the conflict ended. The streets that I now walk upon were once trod by artists whose works now are adored and revered. The customs I encounter are informed by an aged amalgamation of religion, ideology, and ethnicity.
I kept thinking how it might have been back in those days of plague, war, revolution, reformation, and enlightenment. Would I have been a soldier? a mason? a poet? How might I have added to the texture and thought of what has passed?
Ordinary Life Matters
Back home I write articles, prepare sermons, counsel, teach, cook, play card games with my kids. Am I stuck in an era of no real significance? Arguably, there is no felt tension, no one will be invading my front yard anytime soon. There are no watchmen on the tower . . . there is no tower. And not many people build with stone anymore.
In our time, there are not many external calls to prove our mettle or to act the hero. We are not immersed in a conflict or pandemic or revolution that radically affects our daily routine. Perhaps then, we have it harder than those who had.
And it is not that I long for war and the gamble of losing my home or my life that bothers me, it is the day-to-day desire to make history, to feel that what I do matters.
But really, I know that what I do does matter. It’s just that I want to build, build to last, something that will remain after I am gone. A testament of my time here on earth, I want it to be something beautiful and significant.
I think also that I have said some wise things, fully acknowledging that every quip is some version of what wiser persons from olden times or my present contemporaries have stated. Still, just a phrase that I personally tailored would be nice.
I’d like generations that follow to know that I stood for something, believed strongly and worshipped God, that I loved Jesus.
And here is where I get a grip and realize that this is already happening. Moving statuary that breathes and thinks and speaks, my children are first among those whom I influence through my life. They are living art, caricatures of myself in abstract form and in impressionistic presentations. They are me and they are themselves and by the grace of God, becoming more like Jesus.
I hope for a decisive battle, a bloodless revolution, a festive life where they, this living history, conquers the world with the good news of Jesus Christ.
Have you found ways to recognize the importance of your ordinary days? Talk to us in the comments below.