A bit over a year ago, Jessica took this blog private to help protect her contributors professionally. It was a dark day and a frantic one for most of us. And, I think that worry (and others) contributed to her illness. Evil has effects that we don’t expect.
Then in the few weeks, she was diagnosed with cancer, and the blog, and so very much more was dumped in Chalcedon’s lap to deal with. As most here know, Jess and I had become extraordinarily close friends, and keeping me in the loop also became his lot. Through that ordeal, we have become very close ourselves, which Jess foresaw, long ago she told me that she thought we were the same man, we always had the same answers, and while not completely so, in many ways it is true. We tend to react the same way. In many ways, one wouldn’t expect a British professor, and an American electrician to do so, but the answer is that as men we were formed in much the same way, although with considerably different means.
Much of that is, I think, we are sons of what has come to be called “The Greatest Generation” in both our countries. John Kennedy spoke for them back in 1961, when he said:
We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans–born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage–and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
That defines those men and women as well as they ever have been, both politically, and personally. They weren’t the easiest people to live with, they knew right from wrong, and they meant to make sure you did too. The other thing that I really remember about them is: how often they looked to our past, and our God, although often not the church, for guidance, and that they never, ever gave, or accepted excuses.
By all accounts, Jessica’s parent’s were very much like that as well, and it shines brightly in her, and in this, the blog that she created. At some point last September, Chalcedon asked me for my thoughts on the blog’s future, as we started to face the horrid reality, that we might lose Jess forever. My quick and unconsidered answer was that while I had no real vision for the future, we must continue to protect and disseminate Jessica’s extraordinary work here. He, of course, readily agreed, and for the time being we tabled it until the future became clearer.
When the Lord cured her, and there is no other possible answer, something very strange happened. As she waited for her ride to the convent, she and I exchanged some emails, as was our wont, at any stray minute. She sounded incredibly good, completely normal, in fact, better than she did the week before she went to the doctor. And from what he told me, Chalcedon also found her completely normal in hospital those few days, although weak. But this is the strange thing, Jess remembers almost none of this, it is like someone took over to reassure us, if so, perhaps they did too good a job, because she was far from well, it would be Easter before she approximated the Jess we know and love.
Sometime last fall, Chalcedon asked me what I thought of the idea of AATW as a form of lay apostolate. I googled the term, it’s a Catholic (and primarily Victorian) one designating something that could be very roughly compared with what in my church we call the brotherhood. A volunteer grouping of men to help each other however they can (obviously in this case it would not be restricted, nor would we want it to be, to men). I thought and prayed about it and said that I thought that would be an excellent use of what Jessica had created here for us. For she had collected a diverse group of men, although not enough women, many of us older, and with experience across a range of churches, and no church. We had all learned for ourselves that Kipling was no fool when he wrote
It is rather strange, really, that so many of us love Kipling so, he has gotten a bad press over the years. Many have claimed he is racist or jingoistic or other things, I don’t see it that way. I fully agree with G.K. Chesterton that Kipling’s subject is not valour but interdependence. In Heretics, Chesterton writes:
It is that interdepedence and efficiency that belong quite as much to engineers, or sailors, or mules, or railway engines.. […] The real poetry, the “true romance” which Mr. Kipling taught, is the division of labor and the discipline of all the trades. […]
Everywhere men have made way for us with sweat and submission.
Above all, he celebrates the “Marthas” of the world. And that is the title that we universally crave, isn’t it? To put our mark upon the world. Kipling is, above all, I think, the bard of ‘Doing our duty’ And in many ways, that is what the contributors here do. We try to help our younger members (and each other as well) learn from our experience. For, above all, we have learned, often the hard way:
Good judgement comes from experience
Experience come from bad judgement
If one is lucky, someone else’s
And so, we have taken it as one of our underlying missions since we came back from the catacombs, to function as guides along what could properly be called, The Pilgrim’s route, and to help others with their progress.
I can hear you now, some of you, “What do you old men know about my life, it’s all different now.” Well, actually no, it isn’t, we all wanted pretty much the same things you do, some we got, and some we didn’t and perhaps never will, and it’s likely a good thing we didn’t. But like Mr. Kipling, we will continue in our duty. You know, back when the world was young, in 1968 or so, we thought Mary Hopkins had a cute song, but we were different, it didn’t apply to us. Well, guys, we were wrong, it’s all true, and much, much sooner than you think.