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The Normally Abnormal Life

The best times are now. We regret the past, and we look pessimistically at the future, but we fail to realize that today offers the greatest opportunity. As C.S. Lewis continues in his sermon:

[Looking at our emotions rather than reason] indeed is the case with most of us: certainly with me. For that reason I think it important to try to see the present calamity in a true perspective, The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it.

Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure the search would never have begun. We are mistaken when we compare war with “normal life”.

Life has never been normal.

Even those periods which we think most tranquil, like the nineteenth century, turn out, on closer inspection, to be full of cries, alarms, difficulties, emergencies. Plausible reasons have never been lacking for putting off all merely cultural activities until some imminent danger has beenaverted or some crying injustice put right.

But humanity long ago chose to neglect those plausible reasons. They wanted knowledge and beauty now, and would not wait for the suitable moment that never come.

Periclean Athens leaves us not only the Parthenon but, significantly, the Funeral Oration. The insects have chosen a different line: they have sought first the material welfare and security of the hive, and presumable they have their reward. Men are different.They propound mathematical theorems in beleaguered cities, conduct metaphysical arguments in condemned cells, make jokes on scaffold, discuss, the last new poem while advancing to the walls of Quebec, and comb their hair at Thermopylae. This is not panache; it is our nature.

We must believe in ourselves. We must believe in the preciousness of life, and exult in every moment of it. Wars, earthquakes, and millions of catastrophes may come and go, but life, human civilization, and society will remain. Don’t wait for circumstances to calm down before starting out in life, for that time is guaranteed to be perched in infinity.

I was like that. I waited for life to revert to the stability of my childhood, until I realized that life will only grow more and more complicated as I gain greater responsibilities. There is never an optimal time for writing cover letters and resumes; they’re almost always done on the fly as deadlines approach. There is never a prime time for learning a foreign language, but working on it slowly every day can lead to mastery.

Live well, live strong, and accept the abnormalities of life as normal.

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