Spirit Quest

By The Reverend Hanns Skoutajan

Lest We Forget

By now the floral wreaths on the memorial cenotaphs all across this country are withering. Nevertheless, the words on the sashes accompanying them continue to remind us: “Lest we forget.”

Lest we forget what? Certainly it is the men and women who went abroad to fight in ships and planes and on the ground in the wars of the last century. It includes the Korean War, and most recently Afghanistan. Personally I would enlarge  that company to include the peace keepers and the merchant seamen who kept the supply lines open during World War 11. Yes, and I would also include those much maligned Canadians, members of the Mac-Paps who fought fascism in Spain’s civil war which was Hitler’s dress rehearsal.

“Lest we forget” is the refrain in Rudyard Kipling’s well-known Recessional which he penned for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. What was it that Kipling bade us not to forget? 

Gathered in London for that illustrious occasion, the commemoration of Queen Victoria’s 60 year reign, were dignitaries from all over the world,   the colonies and dominions of the empire. The sun never set on the global realm, they were frequently reminded. Even in my school days, 60 years ago, the world map on the classroom wall, courtesy Neilson’s Chocolates, reminded in us in red of the extent of that empire. 

Kipling was concerned about this realm. Can it last? Other empires such as China and Rome, all were time limited. He was worried lest pride and power would undermine this community of nations. At the end of that splendid celebration Kipling remarked:

The tumult and the shouting die
The captains and the kings depart
Still stands thine ancient sacrifice
A humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of hosts be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget.

Humility and contrition are scarce commodities among the victors, then and now. What the poet wants us to remember is our creaturehood. The God, by whatever name we address the divinity, can only be approached humbly and in awareness of the flawed nature of our deeds.

We ought fervently to remember that we belong to a global community. This is more evident today than it was at the end of Victoria's reign. Our cities, especially that once great capital of empire, London, is now a cosmopolitan community that reflects the racial, linguistic, religious and cultural complexity of the cosmos. 

We need to be reminded of the common threat to all creation: global warming, water, soil and air pollution, and the scourge of violent greed.

On the night of November 4 people not only in the United States and Canada but throughout the world celebrated the victory of Barack Hussein Obama. It is hoped that as president of the most powerful nation of the world (still) he would usher in positive changes in his country that would affect  the nations and peoples of the planet Earth. Whether that is possible or unrealistic remains to be seen. But what it says most powerfully is not so much about president elect Obama but about a tremendous desire and hope abroad throughout the world, for sharing the wealth and resources. This can only be accomplished in peace.

Be sure that we shall all perish lest we forget our common humanity and home. I believe that this spirit is alive among all the people of this world.