Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Cut-Flower People

A week ago this past Sunday I cut the last roses from the Knock Out Rose Bush in the back yard.  Some of the blooms had already been lightly touched by frost, the tips of the petals showing a yellow scar.  There were still a few blossoms untouched, however, and there were even a few buds yearning for a chance to burst forth. I cut about a dozen roses and enjoyed their fragrance and beauty for a few days, watching each day to see if the buds would open.  Some did and some did not.  Cut flowers of whatever variety do not last long once they are severed from their roots.  My roses lasted for four or five days before they began to wilt and die.

D. Elton Trueblood is with me this morning.  I am reading once again his book written in 1944, “The Predicament of Modern Man.” This little book is almost as old as I am and yet it still speaks to our time and our modern predicament, even though the price of the book when first published was just one dollar.  

The gist of the book is simply that we have become a “Cut-Flower” generation, a people who have lost their philosophical and spiritual rootedness in the midst of great technological advancement and a relentlessly changing and frustrating world.  Severed from these spiritual roots we cannot long survive, for like my bouquet of roses, we will wilt and eventually die.  Humans, like us, are in need of something to “buttress and to guide” our lives.  “Without this, the very capacities that make us a little lower than the angels lead to our destruction.  The beasts do not need a philosophy or a sense of spirituality, but man does.”  Elton continues, “Man’s sinful nature is such that he will use instruments of power for evil ends unless there is something to instruct him in their beneficent uses.  Without the conscious and intelligent buttressing of what has been demonstrated as precious, human society goes down.”

If we allow ourselves to be cut-off from the roots of our American dream—a dream of a land where men and women of all races, of all nationalities and of all creeds can live together as brothers and sisters—we will wilt and die as a democracy.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [all people and wherever they may live] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are words that have cosmic, even spiritual proportions.  If we cut ourselves off from this spiritual base, our democracy and human society “goes down.”

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