A people is constituted by the living who recognize, respect, and identify with their dead in the things and imprints of places that they left behind. The living love their dead by training their young into the social affections that keep their dead alive to them…
It is in the heirlooms of our ancestors as well in the shared belonging to a geographical place wherein the sense of generational continuity is fostered and wherein the bonds between the living and the dead and yet to be born are kindled and strengthened. The bands that tie the loved departed with the loved to be born are not bands that are merely abstract ideas. Such thinking would border on a creeping Gnosticism. No, our connection with the past and the future, as well as the connection through us of the past to the future is concretely embodied in our heirlooms and a shared place occupied by generation to generation.
My own Father didn’t leave much behind but what he left I cherish as a connection to him. When I go out I often will wear one of his old chapeaus. The hat itself is not in the best of condition. I could easily purchase something that would be “nicer” or more stylish but because the chapeau belonged to my Father it serves as a kind of talisman that connects me to my Father and so I value it far more highly than anybody else would value it. His hat is hardly an heirloom in the traditional sense of that word but it is a bond in keeping with Burke’s opening quote.
These kinds of bonds which keep us connected to a living but absent past can be found in a shared homestead passed down generationally, or in shared heirlooms. It may be the library passed on from generation to generation. It could be the transgenerational belonging to the same Church or to the same community. The Historic Christian faith provides this kind of linkage between the dead fathers and their living sons.
Thomas McCauley captured something of what I am getting at when he inked,
“To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his gods”
Note, the sense of connection of McCauley’s hero with his Fathers and his faith. Horatius is defending both the living and the dead. This is largely absent in our individualistic culture.
Stephen Wolfe says the same without the poetic form,
The most precious aspect of human community—the connection among the dead, living, and yet-to-be-born —is the most delicate, the easiest to destroy. The most effective way to destroy the solidarity of a people is to undermine and sever their connection with the past and thereby disconnect the dead from the yet-to-be-born. The future, as a result, becomes a project rooted in universal and timeless values, a process of homogenizing the world into a series of sites—a flatness brought about by disaffection. The world becomes sites of consumption.
When we ignore these kinds of connections we descend into an atomistic individualism where the only important society is the consumeristic society of the here and now. We become disconnected to a sense of the past which promises that the generations that follow us will become disconnected to us, once we are gone. There is zero continuity and our Christian Fathers are to us so remote that giving up on them is as easy as giving up on the cheap imported gadget when it goes on the fritz.
And so because we refuse the bonds to our Christian past and our Christian Fathers our children will be whatever the anti-Christ creators of modernists culture want them to be.