I was struck the other day by the relative significance of dates: in part how what may be a very important date for us may be an ordinary day for others, but also how even a day that has attained a solemn timelessness was once just an ordinary day….and may become so once more. All is vanity.
This line of thought was raised by looking at some construction photos taken on November 11th, 1915 here in Connecticut, on a somewhat rural but rather important (to the people of Hartford, Ct) construction site. 11-11. A fairly young group of men, many of whom would go elsewhere in about eighteen months time, largely halting construction.
Already a great conflagration burned in Europe. But it was not yet a matter of remembrance. And no one knew that it would become something so terrible; there may have been a rumour or two, but nothing to be believed, not yet. It probably wasn’t a topic of great concern at the work site, any more than the wars of today are. The likely topic was the job for the day and how best to wrap it up to wait out the winter.
For me, November 11th is Armistice Day.* It is likely a working day, an ordinary day, but still the grave yawns for me, if only for a glimpse at the strike of 11. For the men in the photograph, Armistice Day wasn’t even an idea. The dates and the monuments of our lives, in their great solemnity, are creations. We remember for a time, but there are few dates that can remain for generations, which is perhaps as it should be. Men lived before us, men will live after us. It is not the dates that remain forever, nor the names, nor yet the places; but the spirit and the life. The hate and the love, the joy and the sorrow.
*It is Armistice Day.