The news that
some Europeans have been wrecked on a desert island is gratifying, in so far as
it shows that there are still some desert islands for us to be wrecked on.
Moreover, it is also interesting because these, the latest facts, actually
support the oldest stories. For instance, superior critics have often sniffed
at the labours of Robinson Crusoe, specifically upon the ground that he
depended so much upon stores from the sunken wreck. But these actual people
shipwrecked a few weeks ago depended entirely upon them; and yet the critics
might not have cared for the billet. A few years ago, when physical science was
still taken seriously, a very clever boys’ book was written, called
“Perseverance Island.” It was written in order to show how “Robinson Crusoe”
ought to have been written. In this story, the wrecked man gained practically
nothing from the wreck. He made everything out of the brute materials of the
island. He was, I think, allowed the advantage of some broken barrels washed up
from the wreck with a few metal hoops round them. It would have been rather
hard on the poor man to force him to make a copper-mine or a tin-mine. After
all, the process of making everything that one wants cannot be carried too far
in this world. We have all saved something from the ship. At the very least,
there was something that Crusoe could not make on the island; there was
something Crusoe was forced to steal from the wreck; I mean Crusoe. That
precious bale, in any case, he brought ashore; that special cargo called “R.
C.,” at least, did not originate in the island. It was a free import, and not a
native manufacture. Crusoe might be driven to make his own trousers on the
island. But he was not driven to make his own legs on the island; if that had
been his first technical job he might have approached it with a hesitation not
unconnected with despair. Even the pessimist when he thinks, if he ever does,
must realise that he has something to be thankful for: he owes something to the
world, as Crusoe did to the ship. You may regard the universe as a wreck: but
at least you have saved something from the wreck.
Not only does the Christian encounter the great act of thanksgiving at every Mass, at moment of prayer, at the very realization that every point of life is given –and not taken– but also that everything is total grace given by God for our happiness in this life and in the next. Happy Thanksgiving, friends!