We now enter what we might call “The New Eden” section but which we actually call “In Time To Come” – this section is very aspirational, very “kingdom of heaven.” Which, I suppose, is needed, and helpful – goodness knows Dr. King’s “I have a dream” motivated people to reach for it, to believe in something better. Even Barack Obama’s “yes we can” was similarly hopeful and visionary. And when we compare it to the backward thinking “make America great again” it’s a needed corrective and comfortable reframing.
Here are the lyrics – and don’t get tripped up by the word “race” in the first line – our lyricist John Addington Symonds was writing from a Victorian English literary perspective, where the word was used instead of “humanity” or worse, “mankind.” (I really don’t know what he was talking about in the first line of verse 3 – maybe one of you has a clue?)
These things shall be: a loftier race
than e’er the world hath known shall rise,
with flame of freedom in their souls,
and light of science in their eyes.
Nation with nation, land with land,
unarmed shall live as comrades free;
in every mind and heart shall throb
the pulse of one humanity.
High friendship, hitherto a sin,
or by great poets half-divined,
shall burn a steadfast star within
the calm, clear spirit of the mind.
New arts shall bloom of loftier mold,
and mightier music thrill the skies,
and every life a song shall be
when all the earth is paradise.
My biggest problem with this hymn is not the vision – I’m cool with it. (And the tune feels a little cheery, but this is the same tune as used in #12, O Life that Maketh All Things New, another aspirational song.)
No, problem is not with the hymn at all. My problem is that we should already BE HERE, and how are we not? What the hell happened?
I know there are a lot of answers, and it doesn’t change the reality that we face which is not at all this vision. I don’t feel particularly energized to go look for all the reasons why we’re in a pickle. We just are, and we can’t change the past.
What we can change is the future, and so keeping this peaceful, creative, intelligent, reality based vision of one world in the forefront like a carrot dangling before our eyes may help us remember what it is we’re fighting for.
The image is of the Peter Wenzel painting, “Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.” I just couldn’t resist.