Sunday, March 14, 2010


Busy week. Rather than a column, I thought that this update would take the form of a longish quotation on the subject above. This passage from Bertrand Russell's "A Free Man's Worship" (1913) expresses in some respects a remarkably Christian sentiment for a man who once wrote a famous essay about why he was not one. For Russell, it was a rejoinder to the claim that a non-believer's life must necessarily be without purpose. I first encountered it in my teens, and it has never been far from my thoughts. Actions, on the other hand...

"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 forces, 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 instill 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.

And so, when their day is over, when their good and their evil have become eternal by the immortality of the past, be it ours to feel that, where they suffered, where they failed, no deed of ours was the cause; but wherever a spark of the divine fire kindled in their hearts, we were ready with encouragement, with sympathy, with brave words in which high courage glowed.

1 comment:

Graham Broad said...

This early update brought to you by the pure joy of a never-tiring affection. The photo is of Bertrand Russell himself.