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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Culloden, Bosworth Field, and the Love of Lost Causes

My husband and I are probably one of the most compatible couples you will ever meet.  Not only are we still madly in love after 21 years, but we still like each other.  A few weeks ago, I received an email from him that went something like this:

Sometimes I’m an idiot.  I just realized that your birth date is the same as the Battle of Culloden.”

This may not seem a significant oversight in most relationships, but ours is built on the bedrock of romanticism.  I am not referring to gifts of roses, chocolates, or badly sung ballads with bunny hug lyrics, but to an ideal that has survived centuries of malevolence, ridicule, and realism.  We are people who want to believe in happy endings, and who will always believe in a better world than what is currently around us. 

Those of you who know my husband will beg to differ.  He is a public cynic who takes a perverse pleasure in avoiding society at all costs.  I, while more social, am also inclined to sarcasm and tend to take a general dark view of the world.  We both withdraw from it whenever possible, preferring our own microcosm of two adults, two mice, and a black cat named Maledictus.

Yet, we can spend hours bemoaning the fall of the Stuarts, or wishing the Tudors hadn’t triumphed at Bosworth Field (my husband’s birthday falls on THIS date).  We regularly raise a glass to the last King “over the water” (Henry Benedict Stuart, Cardinal Duke of York, later King Henry IX…sigh).  We dwell in the past, and our hope for the future involves a return to the values that were dear to those we most admired, those  generations who understood the difference between manners and etiquette, a world in which there was always an eternity that outweighed the importance of everyday affairs.

We are, in fact, searching for Eden.

We are not alone in this endeavor.  We just marked the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the “War of Northern Aggression”, and there have been any number of nostalgic posts about the bygone era of Southern chivalry and the Old South.  Of course, no one wants to return to the days of slavery, merely to recapture the elegance that pervaded the culture at its best, that elegance that was both its cream and its corruption, its saving grace and its downfall.

It is the same with so many lost causes.  Were the Plantagenet kings and the House of Stuart all that we believe them to be?  My heart gives a resounding yes, my head recognizes the impossibility of any time being as golden as we imagine.  To have been young in the 1920s would have suited me perfectly, but I would still be a Rubenesque woman of no significant fortune in Audrey Hepburn’s world.  Tara may have existed, but it lacked air conditioning, and even Scarlett O’Hara doesn’t get through life unscathed.  It is simply impossible for us to create perfection on this plane.

Yet, we still seek it.  We still look for that perfect sunset, trying to capture it with our cameras and videos, always finding the light at home to be unequal to the task of recreating what God gave only that once.  

We seek it in our Faith, we find it only in the Sacrifice of the Mass, that one moment when time becomes eternity, and we glimpse our God in the elevation of the Host, and we feel a tangible pull toward the altar as He is once again reclined.  It is His perfection that we seek, our last and distant King, and we His loyal subjects, come again and again to watch His descent to us and His Sacrifice, restoring us for just a moment to a perfect creation, restoring us to an untainted Eden in preparation for Paradise. 

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