I wrote this some years ago while in college and want to copy it here because 1) I want to be able to find it again and 2) it has been bouncing around in my head for the past few days.
So:Recently ran across this poem by Rudyard Kipling, which I shall copy here in it's entirety, then rant a little bit about it and finally leave you in peace.
"The Gods of the Copybook Headings
"AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.
"We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.
"We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.
"With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
"When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."
"On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."
"In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."
"Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
"As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
"And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!"
My notes on this poem:
1) A copybook was the method by which British school children would practice their penmenship. On each page was a perfect specimin of handwriting (usually some kind of proverb or scripture) which the students would copy down ad nauseum to strengthen their own handwriting.
2) Kipling contrasts two sets of gods, those of the Copybook Headings and those of the Marketplace. The Marketplace gods seem to be those who preach the current, prevelant, and usually erroneous, "truths"; the Copybook gods are those who constantly remind humanity of enduring, tried, tested, and usually odious truths. Humanity is want to follow the old truths and instead goes rushing after whatever is the newest fad, which ends up hurting more than anything else.
3) This poem reminds me of the "Save the Wheel" campaign that New Attidue put out a few years ago, essentially saying that the best truths are the ones that have been around for thousands of years and it is to our folly to try to "improve" upon them. I think that the entire point of the NA2006 conference was humbly defending what we know is true in the face of a culture that is constantly trying to twist truth to make it more "relavant" to the culture and thus far less powerful.
4) Kipling gives three direct examples of how the Copybook gods and Marketplace gods clash (Stanzas 5, 6 and 7), which I find to be the most powerful portions of the entire poem.
First, there is the idea that it is better to surrender without a fight than to stand for what will bring bloody consequences. This is particularly true for those of us (myself especially) who would rather remain silent than preach the Gospel of Christ. Am I more willing to surrender my principles than to stand firm and "suffer" (though it is a far smaller suffering than what my brothers and sisters endure) for Jesus?
Second, there is the idea that giving into small sins will lead to pleasure, rather than pain. But in an age of rampant worldliness, where halves of poison pills abound and there is dog poop in every brownie, it is a grave and deadly thing for the Christian to let his or her guard down to the notion there are no consequences for sin.
Third, and this is the most cultural of all, this idea of the socialist, the government will pay for my bills, society leads to a world of indolence and laziness and douses our torches in the oncoming glacier of lukewarm Christianity. Creating a society where it is okay for a person to just "get by" by relying on the hard work of someone else (which is a rapidly dwindling pool of people) creates a Church that sees no need to labor for Christ. Life is supposed to be hard work, and the Christian life is the hardest of all. But when hard work is looked down upon, how much longer until the Church is no longer actively spreading the Glory of God? Until Christains are no longer actively battling sin? Until we waste our lives on pursuing self when there is a great and glorious, all satisfying God to be chased after?
So, do we give into the gods of the market place when THE GOD of the universe is calling after us? Or do we uphold the ancient truth that the Ancient of Days Himself spoke forth?
There is a great deal of paganism and evolution in Kipling's poem, but the general idea is one that I strongly believe we are in need of. We must not "worship the gods of the market, who promise these beautiful things" because there is a greater God to be worshipped, who promises even more beautiful things to those who believe in His truth.