Editorial

‘We long to tread a way none trod before, But find the excellent old way through love’

Peter C. Newman January 1 1979
Editorial

‘We long to tread a way none trod before, But find the excellent old way through love’

Peter C. Newman January 1 1979

‘We long to tread a way none trod before, But find the excellent old way through love’

Editorial

Peter C. Newman

In as evocative a piece of reportage as has ever been published in this magazine, staff writer Angela Ferrante explores (on pages 26 to 31) the return to religion that is becoming an important and welcome trend among Canadians. The quest for God or, at least, a search for some system of organized values amid the despair and emptiness of modern life, holds out the hope that Christmas (and Hannukah, which happened to fall on the same day) would be more than empty celebrations of smugness and materialistic temptation.

Prompted by new freedoms and a decline in the oldfashioned virtues, too many of us have begun to seek self-definition through action instead of thought. It is an oversimplification at best to believe that true wisdom comes only through the validity of experience. What Angela Ferrante documents is that even though the religious renaissance remains a minority phenomenon, the belief in divine intervention is being born again—whether inspired in spectacular form by the Shroud of Turin, or by the smaller miracle of watching a snowflake melt on a child’s forehead.

Parading our nourished grievances and corrosive sensibilities like medieval knights brandishing their shields, most of us try to get through life by pretending to develop bulletproof psyches, but end up instead sporting a kind of loose amiability that hides the wounds of loneliness. Loyalties fragment; the human spirit becomes dry and brittle. The theologians trum-

pet a crisis of faith; the secularists a crisis of reason.

Detachments pervade urban life. Natural instincts are smothered in the clanging cities, as men and women forget the sound of wind and the variation of sunsets. Many lead half-lives, becoming sophisticated popinjays of every sex, soignée within the architecture of their own tumult, spending their derisions and adorations in coins of equal currency. “All over the world,” Ingmar Bergman, the Swedish-born film director remarked recently, “I sense the same anxiety among people. I feel that we are all at the end of something, living in a kind of guilt and isolation.”

Atonement and redemption are not for everybody, because every act bears its consequences and we all have to possess our own pasts. But against the injurious onset of time, age and death, the human spirit can be fortified by two things only: love and faith. It takes great pain and much time to discover the awful emptiness of freedom sought for its own sake.

Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote is not a religious book. But when his mad knight achieves one final, marvelous moment of lucidity and recognizes how ridiculous he has become, he refuses to wallow in selfpity. Instead, he asks the reader, with the unalloyed mischief of a man who has explored the far side of his soul, whether we would like to join him in “casting off the melancholy burden of sanity.” Most of us would prefer to travel less hazardous routes to salvation. But it is only in the quality of compassion, which forms the heart of traditional religious doctrines, that true contentment can ultimately be achieved.