I moved a table at a sidewalk cafe in Cambridge, NZ, the other day. A man growled at me. It was his table. I didn't know this. He growled at me again. I got angry. He was already angry*. We parted, and I remembered the Bertrand Russell quotation that I had seen a week earlier, taken from 'The Free Man's Worship', and quoted in Frank Schaeffer's wonderful book 'Patience with God'. Maybe this is patronising (I don't intend it as such); maybe it's too melodramatic (unless you see all of life as sacred, in which case all of life can be dramatic too); maybe it's just an excuse for a blog post. But here it is: “United with his fellow-men by the strongest of all ties, the tie of a common doom, the free man finds that a new vision is with him always, shedding over every daily task the light of love. The life of Man is a long march through the night, surrounded by invisible foes, tortured by weariness and pain, towards a goal that few can hope to reach, and where none may tarry long. One by one, as they march, our comrades vanish from our sight, seized by the silent orders of omnipotent Death. Very brief is the time in which we can help them, in which their happiness or misery is decided. Be it ours to shed sunshine on their path, to lighten their sorrows by the balm of sympathy, to give them the pure joy of a never-tiring affection, to strengthen failing courage, to instil faith in hours of despair. Let us not weigh in grudging scales their merits and demerits, but let us think only of their need, of the sorrows, the difficulties, perhaps the blindnesses, that make the misery of their lives; let us remember that they are fellow-sufferers in the same darkness, actors in the same tragedy with ourselves.”
* I have just been asked by a resident of Cambridge to state unequivocally that 'we're not all like that' and 'it was probably someone from Auckland visiting for the day'. Happy to oblige.