Sunday, February 5, 2012

February flowers

If I knew how to cut back the brightness of the whites the delicate textures of these lovely little flowers would show a lot better. Snowdrops, they are called, and are the first of the new crop of flowers to show up in our New Year. From the litter of last years oaks they must draw their nourishment, which makes me think of the ancient association of the colour white with death. When the oaks turn green again, there will be no sign of these snowdrops. We've been having an Indian spring the last few days, and the crocuses must be hastening to open up to the sun. A few cherry trees are also in blossom.
Spring is often used as a metaphor when we want to remark on the cyclical nature of life on this planet. It's a commonplace to say that history repeats itself, and a false commonplace in my view. Looking at the history of the planet earth it's obvious that over the eons things have drastically changed. A hundred million years ago gigantic dinosaurs roamed the world. Whenever I hear some global warming propaganda all I have to do is remember that only a few thousand years ago Victoria was buried under a mile of ice. Yes, as long as the earth tilts in its orbit around the sun we will have seasons. But just as its hard to see the motion of a clock's hour hand, it's hard in a short lifespan to see the changes that accumulate from year to year and century to century, but they do nevertheless. Spring comes and goes but each spring the world is a little different. I am a little older this year, and the number of springs remaining for me to see is subtracted by one. Friends and family have died, new children have been born. "Thank heaven for little girls," goes the song, and thank heaven I am alive to see a new crop come along. I think it's only when you get old that you begin to realize what a miracle that is.
Cruise ships are another sign of spring in Victoria. They're not coming in yet except to get pulled onto our graving dock for maintenance. But there will be a spring when they don't come anymore, just as the tea clippers don't come anymore. In their heyday not many could have imagined that that era could come to an end. But it did, and now the world is a different kind of place... I mean the world of men. Seasons still come and go, but unbeknownst to those clipper captains, the seeds of their demise were already sown, and it's always like that.
At one time the city of Rome commanded a vast empire. After centuries of obscurity, it reached its peak of vigour during the time of Augustus and his successors. Not one of them would have given the least thought to a baby born in a manger in an insignificant town in the East, and no science yet known to man could have predicted that that little baby would transform the world. But he did.
One of the most important things about the Christian belief system is that every single soul matters. This is in sharp contrast to the older paganistic tradition that saw history as an ever recurring series of cycles. It was axiomatic that history repeated itself... everything was foreordained. But if you believe that then it logically follows that nothing we could possibly do could matter in the slightest.
Science doesn't admit the possibility of a supernatural creative being, but it does believe that the universe unfolds in a mechanical way. There was a Big Bang in the remote past and everything that can possibly happen was already built into the universe. That's why I think of science as a form of pantheism.
But if that's true, then what is the point of being alive? Why suffer? Why strive? Well, I don't think it's true at all. I think the Christian premise is the truth. Could it be that the ennui so evident in all our modern thinking comes from the loss of faith in that all-important Christian principle?
I do think hard times are coming. There are periods in history when all hell breaks loose. But one of the main reasons Christianity survived the destruction of the Roman order is that they knew every human life was important. That was why, unlike the pagans, they did not kill their babies. Is it so surprising that our society which doesn't value its young, has lost its sense of purpose?
But never fear. Even now, in some obscure part of the planet something new is about to be born, something to carry us a little farther than we have gone before. In the middle of the winter the days are already growing longer.