03-22-2018 History

The Paw Paw River Journal

Where have all the flowers gone? Thus go the words in an old folk song recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary, among others. Good question! Your Paw Paw River correspondent has been thinking about the passage of time. Nothing new about that… ever since the beginning poets, philosophers, song writers, and thinkers have been doing the same… wondering where all the flowers have gone… or as the French writer, Francois Villon, said, “Where are the snows of yesteryear?” Sometimes I think about the Old Testament in the Bible beginning with the story of Genesis, and the Garden of Eden. And the parents of mankind were cast out into the world for eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. This Holy Book has great meaning for two of the world’s great religions… Jewish and Christian. So the stories therein have to be of the utmost importance. Just suppose in addition to the stories themselves… there might be a symbolic truth. Could expulsion from the Garden of Eden be related to the march of mankind itself? (Here’s where I probably lose the creation science people, who believe the biblical account of the creation of the world is scientific fact). Just suppose that the story could be a symbol of mankind’s development. We might have evolved until we reached the point that we could think. Aha! The fruit of the Tree of Knowledge! And by learning to think… we HAVE to think. And when we think, we must consider the fact of our own mortality. Memento Mori… Latin meaning “Remember man that you must die! Then that knowledge forever tinged our existence with the color of sadness, as we were expelled from the Eden of our ignorance into the cold world of knowing. Eastern religions think of time as being circular… some feel that we live multiple lives (in succession), and how we do in this existence determines where we go in the next. Like peeling away layers of an onion… and if we work long and hard enough we will reach the center… Nirvana or oneness with God. In the west we may be more apt to think of time as linear. “Time keeps flowing like a river… to the sea, to the sea,” from the Alan Parsons Project, a beautiful song that has haunted me ever since we heard it on a soft night in Florida. We walked out on the pier at Ft. Myers Beach in Florida. Over the water floated music from the night club on shore. Moonlit water, quiet lapping of waves, and the music, “Goodbye, my love, maybe for forever…” I have never forgotten it… Go ahead, Google it! And turn up your speakers. Back in America’s early development some philosophers lived in New England. They called themselves Transcendentalists. Among them Henry David Thoreau, who lived out in the wilderness long enough to write a classic journal, “Walden.” Another in the group was Ralph Waldo Emerson. I guess they were sort of Deists… believing in the “watchmaker theory”… God created the Universe, then walked away, leaving it running… and it has been running like a watch ever since. I don’t know about that, but another of his ideas was that we all come from the Great Sea. Our lives are like waves that wash up on the shore and then go back to the ocean again… which he called “The Oversoul.” And thus, he says, we are all related because we are alive. There is a life force in nature. Our own Native Americans believed in living harmoniously with the physical world. Some western tribes had elaborate ceremonies to help them bring their lives back into harmony with the Universe. And they took from nature’s bounty only what they needed to live. They could not understand, and were horrified by, our slaughter of the great buffalo herds for their fur and sometimes for the tongue (considered a delicacy). How sad we made them feel with our excesses and broken promises. They only wanted their spirits to go to the next world… still living in harmony with nature and all of creation. There, would be perfection forever. How far we have gone from that simplicity! Some years back a writer, T.S. Eliot, said, “…our only monument a thousand lost golf balls.” We have gone way beyond that. More like, our monument will be heaps of soft drink and beer cans, and landfills full of never-decaying plastic diapers… all releasing methane gas. We are watching the polar ice caps shrink… but it is not all our fault. I read an article that stated millions of cooking fires all over Asia are all contributing to our downfall too. Meanwhile we live our lives… consider our existence. The Greek Philosopher, Socrates, said, “The unexamined life is not worth living!” In rebuttal, your Paw Paw River Correspondent has said, “The examined life is not all beer and skittles either!” But we must think… we cannot not think! And one of the things we consider is the passage of time. A friend, Richard McMullen said in a poem “The Walk Home,” This might be something that only happens in small towns, where streets and houses stay pretty much the same. Maybe not. Once, a little after midnight, I looked though the window in the front door and saw a young man walk by under the streetlight. Long strides, fast pace. Walking home from a bar, could be the American Legion. But people don’t walk places any more as they did fifty years ago. Back in bed, I wondered why the young man looked so familiar. If he came by again, I’d look closer. The following midnight, when he approached, I opened the door, stepped out on the porch, and called “Richard?” I didn’t have any idea what I’d say if he answered. He never slowed down, never saw me at all! Will any of us ever find the kid that we were? Who knows. Meanwhile we think about life… and the fact that it is all too short. We’d better do a good job, because tempis is fugiting! (time is flying!)

Let’s shake on that!!! North Berrien Historical Museum is always interested in photos, stories or information sharing. The museum can be contacted at 269-468-3330 or by email to info@northberrienhistory.org.

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