River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Anglican newsletter

October 2007

Keith takes a long look at families and how the joy of a new grandchild has such an impact on a family.

Last month I referred to the Stock Exchange shudders. I was interested in whether we might be in a crisis by now or have forgotten what the fuss was about. We HAVE forgotten! Today, as I write, we have the Northern Rock crisis in process. Will this be a one-day wonder also or is it the harbinger of a collapse in the housing market and who knows what other spin offs?

I don't want to continue on last month's topic - but I am amazed at how last month's crisis truly has disappeared as though it never was.

My interest this month is families. I mentioned last month the delight and wonder of a new grandchild - which I was actually enjoying at the time. Wow! I now have yet another! This makes three in 7 months. As I look at and delight in my grandchildren, I am very conscious that I am looking at the future. Little faces that, despite the smiles and gurgles, are truly inscrutable - what is actually going on in their minds? William Wordsworth thought he had some idea of the answer. In his "Ode on Intimations . . . ." he writes:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God, who is our home:

If this is true, then those large baby eyes that look up at us in mute enquiry are comparing this world with the Heaven from which they have come and which they have not yet forgotten.

Henry Ford is reported to have said that 'History is bunk'. Maybe he was right, but I doubt it. If these little children are our future, then we must be their past. Time started whenever and it will finish in another whenever. In between it is continuous and we are somewhere on that line. If we deny history (the story of the past), then we deny the future also. What a hopeless condition to be in. But I know that there is a future, because I have looked at my grandchildren and know that they and all their fellows will be here long after am I not.

I have just read a cynical description of what history is - in a curious novel 'The Book of Air and Shadows' by Michael Gruber. '...there are three kinds of history. The first is what really happened, and that is forever lost. The second is what most people thought happened, and we can recover that with assiduous effort. The third is what the people in power wanted the future to think happened, and that is 90% of the history in the books.' There is a lot of truth in this. When I try to tell my children and grandchildren about my life and times, I usually fall into the second type of history and, I am ashamed to say, occasionally into the third. I suspect that it is accidental or coincidental when it is the first. But what 'really happened' may not be all that important, so long as we tell the truth. If my description of a coat correctly conveys that it was waterproof or warm, that may be the relevant truth, even if my colour blindness leads me to describe it as green, rather than brown. On the other hand, if I am giving a description to the police, trying to find a criminal, it may be that it is the colour that is the relevant truth, not whether the coat was warm.

As we hand on the baton of the present, which is the subsuming of the past, we should do so with truthfulness to its future guardians, our children and their children. Forgive me if I quote Wordsworth again, in a quotation of an example of real truth embedded in real inaccuracy:

We are Seven

A little child, that lightly draws its breath, And feels its life in every limb. What should it know of death?

I met a little cottage Girl; she was eight years old, she said; Her hair was thick with many a curl that clustered round her head. She had a rustic, woodland air, and she was wildly clad: Her eyes were fair, and very fair. Her beauty made me glad.

"Sisters and brothers, little Maid, how many may you be?" "How many? Seven in all," she said and wondering looked at me. "And where are they? I pray you tell."

She answered, "Seven are we; And two of us at Conway dwell, and two are gone to sea. "Two of us in the church-yard lie, my sister and my brother. And, in the church-yard cottage, I dwell near them with my mother."

"You say that two at Conway dwell, and two are gone to sea, Yet ye are seven! - I pray you tell, sweet Maid, how may this be."

Then did the little Maid reply, "Seven boys and girls are we; Two of us in the church-yard lie, beneath the church-yard tree."

"You run about, my little Maid, your limbs they are alive; If two are in the church-yard laid, then ye are only five."

"Their graves are green, they may be seen," the little Maid replied, "Twelve steps or more from my mother's door, and they are side by side.

"My stockings there I often knit, my kerchief there I hem; And there upon the ground I sit, and sing a song to them.

And often after sunset, Sir, when it is light and fair, I take my little porringer, and eat my supper there.

"The first that died was sister Jane; in bed she moaning lay, Till God released her of her pain; and then she went away.

"So in the church-yard she was laid; and when the grass was dry, Together round her grave we played, my brother John and I. "And when the ground was white with snow, and I could run and slide, My brother John was forced to go, and he lies by her side.

"How many are you, then," said I, "If they two are in heaven?"

Quick was the little Maid's reply, "O Master, we are seven!"

"But they are dead; those two are dead! Their spirits are in heaven!"

'Twas throwing words away; for still the little Maid would have her will, And said,

"Nay, we are seven!"

Licensed Lay Minister

Keith MacLeod

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