This morning I have been watching the Remembrance Day celebrations. The Last Post in Ypres, the 19 240 figurines on the College Green in Bristol, the poppies thrown in Trafalgar Square, the placing of the wreaths, the reading of poems.
Somehow, this year, it seems the celebrations are overshadowed by Donald Trump’s victory and Leonard Cohen’s death. Nothing however can or should eclipse the historical significance and relevance of the Armistice commemorations.
There are many ways to reflect on our history of war and on the many sacrifices that had to made for us to enjoy its ensuing peace. Wear a poppy or a bleuet de France, promote and defend peace according to our beliefs, political convictions and priorities, either with deeds or words, alone or in partnership.
As for my own, personal contribution, I have been re-reading Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy. Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, The Ghost Road. Books on the horrors of the war and its aftermath. Books that should be read and re-read, just as commemorations should be observed, honored and repeated. Year after year.
Repetition, the mother of learning, the father of action, ….
I have done a lot of re-reading this year. Literary novels, historical novels, romance, comedy, the classics.
It is remarkable how the written word contains new messages at each reading, how our personal experiences blend and combine with the decisions and perceptions of our old, literary friends. As we change it seems protagonists change as well. What once seemed insignificant takes on a new meaning. Differing points of view that continue to differ, in a different light.
It is the same with our traditions, commemorations and probably election campaigns and results.
Age? Experience? Who knows?
Returning to our bookcases and libraries, be it physically or in e-mode does not equal reliving or returning to the past. Instead it allows us to give our present a new and fresh meaning. To see how we can do things, see things, experience things in a better, fuller and more appreciative way.
That is what commemorations are about.
The true spirit of November 11.