Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Purpose in Life


Summer is over, and school begins tomorrow. I did not get as much reading done as I had intended, but I did read one novel and several books on apologetics and, of course, the book reviewed below on this blog. The book that impressed me (or should I say, pressed upon me) the most is the novel, a title no one will recognize, Wind from the Carolinas.


Wind from the Carolinas follows one family, the Camerons of Carolina, from the migration of Tories to the Bahamas following the Revolutionary War through the prohibition era in the United States. The cover blurb calls it an epic, and in a way it is. It tells of big people and big events. But it is more a tragedy than an epic.


In the classic sense a tragedy tells of the misfortune of a big man whose pride destorys him. Ronald Cameron, whose story is the first told, is a classic tragic hero. He is strong, commanding, decisive. But as every classic tragic hero, he has a fatal flaw. Ronald Cameron's flaw is his pride and confidence in himself.


It is a sad story. Ronald Cameron takes the offer of the British government to resettle in the Bahamas loyalistTories who were facing pursecution in the states in the years following the Revolutionary War. Cameron moves his family and slaves and goods, even the bricks of his mansion in Carolina, to Great Exuma in the Bahamas. But the planation fails. The soil is not suited to cotton. Eventually Cameron is reduced to near poverty, and in the end, as it will all of us, death brings him low. He dies, a stubborn failure, a determined man facing a hurricane he can not beat. He dies - and his hope with him.
His sons and daughters and their children follow in his steps, and though some of them achieve a measure of happiness and success in life, that is all they have. Each in his turn dies. And what then?
His legacy in material things is a failing plantation in the Bahamas. He passes on only his strength of will to his daughter Caroline. He leaves no spiritual legacy because he has no spiritual foundation himself. Cameron has no faith, no hope beyond what his strength and will can effect. And that is the tragedy.
The story of an extended family living only for this life is sobering. It is sobering because it is so real.
I am sure the author did not intend that effect. His intention was to tell a tale of adventure, and there is plenty of adventure in the book. But ironically that becomes the point. Life lived for success or for adventure will still be a life that is pointless.

What is the value of things? We all will turn our back on them as we follow him to the grave. If we succeed in implanting our characters in our children, what good are those character qualities, our fatal flaws, if they are reborn in our children and grandchildren dooming them as they doomed us? What is the value if we climb every mountain and fail to see beyond them? What value are the seventy or eighty years we might have if we do not make sense of life in the years we have? What value? None. That is the tragedy of this story. The great tragedy of this story is that so many people live - and die - as Ronald Cameron, lost.
The book was a good read. It is important to see the emptiness of life without hope, without the hope that Jesus gives us. It is good to see it graphically pictured. It pressed upon me and continues to do so two months after I finished the book.

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