Just an antique


I'm told that collecting things is a fetish of industrial man. We are trying to surround ourselves with the produce of the technological age as a guarantee of our immortality. It's supposed to be a bit like a security blanket.

I was very interested to find, when I was studying some Ancient History recently, that the people of Nineveh were great collectors. In this ancient city of Assyria, some five hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the community was right into antiques. At the time when Nineveh was destroyed by the Babylonians, there were more antique shops in the city than any other type of shop. Here were these cosmopolitan urbanites seeking some security for the present in the things of the past. Whenever a community loses its grip on the present it starts harking back to the past. Preservation rather than progress.

Don't get me wrong, I love old things. I say old things because the bits and pieces that clutter my home are a long way from genuine antiques. Still what's one man's junk is another man's treasure. I mean, I love old cars and furniture, and I go into raptures over scratchy 78 records. The only trouble is that old junk is worth a fortune these days. So, I'm as much a product of the present age as anyone else. It's nice to find some security in the past, there's not much in the present.

When a nation looses its nerve, its sense of purpose, its place; when it has no cause other than self preservation and the ease of prosperity, then it gets into the business of preserving slums and the facades of ugly buildings that should have been bulldozed years ago; it no longer trusts itself to the architecture of the new age; it slips back into oblivion.

The Bible says this of the great city of Nineveh, "He will stretch out his hand against the north and destroy Assyria, leaving Nineveh utterly desolate and dry as the desert. Flocks and herds will lie down there, creatures of every kind. The desert owl and the screech owl will roost on her columns. Their calls will echo through the windows, rubble will be in the doorways, the beams of cedar will be exposed. This is the carefree city that lived in safety. She said to herself, 'I am, and there is none besides me'. What a ruin she has become, a lair for wild beasts!"

Is this our end?