Sunday, March 22, 2015

Old Eyes and New Vision: Vera Brittain

Philosophical Wax: In Vera’s Words This one will be brief. I am sitting at the table in my sunroom enjoying a beautiful spring day under Montana skies, relishing in the fact that my vision has improved markedly since my second cataract surgery last Wednesday. Coupled with my continuing recovery from stent surgery six weeks ago, I feel like a new man. And yet, I see like an old one, or, rather – hopefully – a wizened elder. This makes me look at the world in a peculiar way, noting the troubles that surround not me, but the younger people coming of age. Their world is much more rapid but equally dangerous to mine from the same age, and I naturally despair. I am reading a book that talks about this very thing, called Testament of Youth. It was written in 1933 by Vera Brittain. It is her words I wish to leave you with today: “I do not believe that a League of Nations, or a Kellogg Pact, or any Disarmament Conference, will ever rescue our poor remnant of civilisation (sic) from the threatening forces of destruction, until we can somehow impart to the rational process of constructive thought and experiment that element of sanctified loveliness which, like superb sunshine breaking through thunder-clouds, from time to time glorifies war.” Brittain was a convinced pacifist, and for good reason. She was writing her memoir between the two world wars. Her point remains true today: war is horrid and cruel and rarely fought for the reasons given to the fighters, but until the thrill and glory that war projects is shown and accepted to be false once and for all, it will come and young men and women will rush into its allure only to become disappointed or destroyed. We have not grown up; the greatest sadness in my life is knowing that truth.

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