There was a rather interesting and whacky documentary on Channel 4 last night about a few people-mostly ladies, who live life as if they were in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Overall, I found them rather sweet and courageous-if more than a little eccentric. You have to give them credit for braving ridicule, and they were all really quite well dressed. I have to admit that I felt a certain sympathy with their admiration for those times in comparison with the misery of the modern world.
I can't say I agreed with their idea wholeheartedly. They admitted that they had created their own cocoon. Christians are often accused of living in a cocoon (as some do) and this can be a temptation for most if not all of us. It would not be ideal for any of us to completely ignore the age in which God has seen fit for us to live in.
I am not nostalgic about the 1930s-1950s. I was not born until several decades later-but I can't help but admire the dress sense of that era, and the fact that people generally had good manners then-it reminds me of when George Gershwin visited London and was touched by the politeness of everyone who he encountered, which few would agree with these days. On the other hand, I don't deceive myself into believing that everything was perfect then. Rather appropriately, I was flicking through the channels and ended up watching that especially sad moment in The Shawshank Redemption where a prisoner of fifty odd years is released, and unable to cope with the pace of modern life (in the 1950s) hangs himself-a grim reminder that even in those times people were not immune from giving into despair and risking the loss of their souls.
Undoubtedly we would do well to learn from the past, but to imitate it would only be of any real value if would help us to fulfill the will of God and contribute towards our salvation. In this respect, the 1930s still have a lot to offer us. At the time, a substantial group of writers such as G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Evelyn Waugh, and the Dominicans Vincent McNabb, Bede Jarrett, produced a wealth of fictional and non-fictional literature which can still help us today.
In the end, I don't hold out a great deal of hope for the efforts of those in the documentary. Of more use to society and to the Church will be families of faithul Catholics-and even this depends upon each one of us building up the Kingdom of God within our hearts, but we can all learn a thing or two from the past.