Sunday Sermon: Listen, lest we forget


It’s Remembrance Sunday here in the UK.

This reminds me of the three reasons important matters don’t get done:

  • I ran out of time
  • I misunderstood
  • I forgot.

Well, in many ways we are all running out of time – not in a grim way like that may at first sound, but as a species, we have some decisions to make and some behaviours to change.

We’ve certainly misunderstood a lot of important messages that both our Planet and our history have sent us.

And it’s all too easy to forget the clear lessons of history.

I remember reading in an anthology of poetry this brief yet poignant poem from Steve Turner:

History repeats itself

Has to

No one listens

Well, today is the perfect reminder of history.  So many lives sacrificed because of human nature – and perhaps because of misunderstandings too.

My beliefs still include the power of education and the development of intelligence.  An emotionally intelligent person cannot do harm to another.  A financially intelligent person cannot accept the cost of war (unless they have an interest in the commodities that fuel a war).  A morally intelligent person cannot ask others to do what they wouldn’t do themselves (thinking of the class divides in war).

So what can we ‘learn’ from History on Remembrance Day?

In one sense, to my mind at least, history is the history of bullying.  Those with lower intelligence and who have made less progress along the evolutionary pathway make a wrong turn.  This turn is a fundamental decision: “I am different from you.”  This leads to some beliefs and behaviours: “This means that I may legitimately treat you in a way that I wouldn’t treat someone like myself.”

Sounds like the opposite of Jesus’ Golden Law: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  In the case of the bully, the ‘other’ is not in the same class, therefore the rules don’t apply.  I’m pretty sure this is why hostages in movies are encouraged to get their captives to learn their names and use them – a bridge of equality through mutual recognition.

So there’s a lesson to start us off: we are all connected.  That connection is strengthened by the use of a pleasant name.  Ergo, let’s be careful to use people’s preferred names to demonstrate respect and connection.  This is one reason I appreciate the War Memorials – the names.  Everything that is that person is associated with their name.  Their name is an anchor chain that pulls up the anchor of their memory lest they be forgotten in the depths of time.

Leonardo da Vinci believed that everything was connected to everything else.  I agree.  It’s just ecology… an ecology that now stretches to human interactions, technology, climate change, and all the other aspects of history that are changing our World.  Are we listening?

My identity is central to the way I live in that ecologically closed system we call the Earth.  If I see myself as separate, or superior, or different – it allows me different ‘rules’ than if I see myself connected.  I am connected.

History is also the history of beliefs.  What wonderful good beliefs have done in our history.  The abolition of slavery is a favourite since this echoes the truth of our similarity not our difference.  The falling of the Berlin Wall is another.


And what terrible evils have been done in the name of beliefs in our World.  These continue to be perpetrated – and will do so until we recognise our fundamental sameness to one another.  We are one species.  To harm another human is to harm the species – evolutionary suicide at the macro level.

As we Remember today, we would do well to learn that some beliefs are harmful and need to change.

History is a catalyst that can drive us to a better future.  We have stunning capabilities now.  India is receiving some criticism at the moment for funding its space missions but neglecting its poor.  It’s an interesting dilemma but not my point.  (After all, the USA and Europe and China have their own poor to worry about.)  My point is that India can build a spaceship as good as the old Empires of the USA and Russia.  India has new capabilities.

With these new capabilities come new behaviours that transform culture and thus history.  The internet, the greatest connector in history, has levelled so many playing fields.  Combine this with education and a pleasant revolution follows: power to the people.  I love the fact that the bullies of the Banks are being brought to their knees and being forced to change their behaviours.  Their deeds, done in the dark, behind huge bank doors, are being dragged into the light.  There will be more revelations to follow.

I’m not sure how I feel about Wikileaks, but it is another example of our new collective capability to access and share information – and to change our behaviour as a result.

The behaviours that defined the First World War were largely changed by the Second World War.  These acts of violence are now different today in Syria and other troubled places around our pearl of a Planet.  Perhaps we all need to look back – at History, and up – at the stars.

 We Are Stardust

We are part of one pretty small but really rare planet.  There may be other life out there, but at the moment we aren’t helping them and they aren’t helping us (as far as I know!)  So, we need to help each other and our home.  This means looking after the environment in which we live and move and have our being.  We are family – we even breathe the same air and are made of the same stardust.

So, on a day when we are asked to Remember those who’ve sacrificed their lives – the highest love – so that we may continue the mission, let’s remember some great words of John F. Kennedy:

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

We went to the Moon, and we looked back, and this is what we saw…

Our Pearl of a Planet seen from our satellite, the Moon

Our Pearl of a Planet seen from our natural Satellite, the Moon

So, I conclude with the lessons that I am learning and that perhaps we can share…

  • I am connected to you – to hurt you is to hurt myself; to help you is to help myself
  • I am fundamentally the same as you – I breathe your air and you breathe mine; we are stardust
  • I believe we all have the right to be free, happy, healthy, and wealthy.  My freedom is not freedom if it restricts your freedom.
  • I am capable of so much more – therefore I dare to dream of a better future for my children and grandchildren and for your descendants too.
  • I choose to change my habits on a daily basis to promote peace and symbiotic harmony on this Planet.
  • I work to leave the environment in which I was born in a better state than when I inherited the Earth.

One thought on “Sunday Sermon: Listen, lest we forget

  1. Good stuff Lex, thank you. I’d never heard the poem about history repeating itself. So true. I’d forgotten it was Remembrance Sunday today, but i did a couple of things that are oddly linked. I spent some time with my brother, who’s fighting a personal battle against ill health. I also watched the film Bloody Sunday, by Paul Greengrass whose recent film Captain Phillips has fanned my already infernal interest in storytelling. Bloody Sunday tells of anything but heroic war heroes, and instead tells of solders acting callously and cowardly. Today is a complex day, but then, memories are like that, and so maybe a day set aside for remembrance is set up to consider the complications of war. One of the brilliant aspects of Paul Greengrass’ style (if I can put it so plainly) is that he determinedly shows both sides, so in United 93 he shows the fear of the hijackers as well as the hijacked. Life is complicated. But the one sure thing is that the only way any of us can untie things is to grab hold of the rope.

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