“A New Year’s Word of Cheer 1888”

The other day at my mother’s house in Tamborine I found an ancient book The Sunday at Home 1888 cram packed full of uplifting moral tales and essays to be read aloud to the family on Sundays when no work was to be done. That’s where I found the following gem by a Reverend J. Monro Gibson, D.D.

“A New Year’s Word of Cheer 1888”

“Depression, depression, depression. (Yes he really started like that!)

How sadly familiar the word has been for many years. (Hmmm, sounding eerie yet?) It’s not an unfamiliar word at any time; but lately it seems as if it had come, not to visit, but to stay. The depression in agriculture and commerce has been so continued, that it is almost a weariness to speak of it…. (1888, not 2010)

Steam and electricity (substitute technology here) have accomplished all, and even more than all, that was expected of them; but is life very much nobler than it was? Is it so much easier to make a living? Is the living so very much better when it is made? Is the sum of human happiness so much the greater? Or of human misery so much the less? Now that nature does so very much of man’s work, and at so high a rate of speed is man’s labour so much the lighter? Is there more leisure to read, to think, to enjoy?

Of what great advantage is it to get such a wondrously energetic servant as steam (technology), ready to do anything, everything for us, in the shortest time, in the most efficient manner, on the largest scale, if the master has to work all the harder. How many are there who find it the most enjoyable thing in life to get out of hearing of the engine’s shriek, out of reach of the telegraph wire!”

The good reverend goes on at some great length, urging us to turn away from the demands of the material world and lift up our eyes and hearts to the heavens. He concludes by wishing us all “a year of faith and hope and love! – a year of life responsive to the call of heaven – growing larger, richer, fairer and more fruitful, ‘like the tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season.’”

It seems life is not so very different in the 21st century to the 19th. We are all still human, all still searching for a way to be happy and not finding it in the adoration of technology and the increasingly frantic pace of modern life. The call of spiritual teachers remains the same. Lift your eyes to heaven and open your hearts. Happiness lies within, not without.

Like the reverend I wish you a year of faith and hope and love, with a bit of good old fashioned fun thrown into the mix!

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