"Imagine"..a brotherhood of man." John Lennon
Tonka Bay, Minnesota
Let us imagine a race of man who have always lived beneath the earth in fair and noble dwellings, beautified with paintings and statues and furnished with everything requisite to wealth and the blessings that wealth can bring. Let us imagine that these men have never come up to the surface of the earth but have heard through rumors and hearsay of the existence of the divine kingdom of the world. Then let us imagine that at some point in time, the jaws of the earth were opened and they were able to escape and come forth from those places below and into the places where we live. When all at once, they saw the land and the sea and the sky, and beheld the majesty of the clouds and felt the power of the wind, and gazed at the sun in its splendor, and came to understand its power, how it brought daylight to the world and shed its light across the sky; then, when night cast its shadow over the earth, they saw the whole heaven bright and glorious with stars, the varying brightness of the waxing and the waning moon, the rising and setting of these heavenly bodies, and their sure and changeless course through all eternity. When they saw all these glorious things, would they not be immediately convinced of the existence of a higher being, and that all these wonders were their handiwork?
This is how Aristotle saw it.
But, today let us make our own picture. Let us imagine a cloak of darkness such as that with which the eruption of the volcano of Etna is said to have shadowed all the lands around. For two whole days no one could recognize his neighbor, and when on the third day the sun broke through, men felt as though they were all risen from the dead. Now suppose this were to happen to men who had passed their entire lives in darkness, so that they suddenly, for the first time saw the light of day. How would the heavens look to them? From daily habit our eyes and minds have become accustomed to this sight and we no longer wonder at it, or seek a reason for something we have always known. In our folly, we become incurious about anything, however marvelous, if it is not new.
Can there be any man worthy of the name who can consider the regular movements of the heavenly bodies, the prescribed courses of the stars, and see how all is linked and bound into a single system, and then deny that there is any conscious purpose in this and say that it is all the work of chance? The truth is that it is controlled by a power and purpose which we can never imitate.
Let us look at the panorama of our own world, set in the middle of the universe, a solid globe, drawn in upon itself by its own gravity, and dressed with flowers and herbs and trees and fruits, whose number is beyond belief and whose variety is without end. Look next at the cool perennial streams, the once clear waters of the rivers, their banks once robed in living green, the depths of the hollow caves, the rugged cliffs, the heights of the overhanging mountains, the vastness of the open plains.
Then think of the human race, who have been appointed, to be the gardeners of the earth who will not permit it to be a savage haunt of ravenous monstrous beasts. If we could all see this panorama in a single glance with our eyes, as we can in thought, I believe that nobody, seeing thus the whole wide world, could ever doubt the immense beauty of the celestial handiwork.
For most of our history we have believed ourselves to be a nation guided by ideals. Ideals given us by tradition, by enlightened reason or by God. "Ideals are like stars," stated Carl Schurz on April 18, 1859, on the anniversary eve of the battle of Lexington and Concord; "you will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them will reach your destiny."
We have become deceived and blinded by the machinery our culture has created to enlarge our vision. In the last stages of Albert Camus' Plague he states that a man "can't cure and know" at the same time. To know our disease, to discover what we suffer from, may itself be the only cure.
In John Lennon's prescient tune Imagine, he sings of the existence of our highest being, "the brotherhood of man."
Thirty --eight years ago on December 8, 1980, another apostle of peace, a dashboard poet, singing of our higher being, was felled by an assassin's bullet. We may know where we are today, but each of us must decide where we want to go. Imagine!