“Humanity does not pass through phases as a train passes through stations: being alive, we have the privilege of always moving yet never leaving anything behind. Whatever we have been, in some sort we are still.”
~C. S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love
And so, while I ought to be studying the sonnets which Astrophil (star-lover) wrote to Stella (star), I am thinking about this. Lewis actually was writing about such fellows as Astrophil when he penned the above. His argument is that however far removed we may feel from the stockinged, velveted and curled courtiers who likened Stella’s face to red and white marble, we still, in some sense, partake of their experience and are influenced by their affectations. Thus, he opines that the study of such as Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder, Henry Howard Earl of Surrey, and Sir Philip Sidney, will help us to better “understand our present, and perhaps even our future.” Funny, though, that in the study of this past which, evidentally, is not past – that is why, after all, we say it is valuable to study – we should spend so much time dividing it into phases through which, for study’s sake, we say humanity has passed.
But I find Lewis’ statements to be applicable – and slightly more interesting – to my own life. “Whatever we have been, in some sort we are still.” My life has felt, more or less, like a train passing through stations for as long as I can remember. A quick succession of greetings and farewells, each weighted with those that came before. Once I was leaving an old white house in Alabama, saying goodbye to dear people in a parking lot outside a stone church in Tennessee, driving for the last time out through the gate of a Naval Air Station in Georgia. And still I am. Going away down the long Mississippi driveway, though I know I’ll be back again, I feel the weight of other leavings. And today in the midst of adult introductions I find myself a small girl wondering if children playing chase under the Catawba trees would be my friends, staring at the suede shoes of a strange red-haired boy in a church in Texas, or watching an unfamiliar dark girl come downstairs while her mother says “This is Elizabeth.”
And somehow, it is a comfort.