The Last Anzac and Higher Things in Ordinary Life
posted on Thursday 23 Jan, 2014.
One hot weekend in Perth, when the cool indoors called, I made my way through a pile of newspaper articles dating back to 1997.
The first article was dated 20th December 1997 and called “Last Anzac fought for family values.” It told of the death of Ted Matthews a few weeks earlier. At 101 he was the last original Anzac. The journalist interviewed his daughter, Irene Phillips, about him.
She remembered him as a very loving father and a very loving husband. He and his wife were close and loving, and didn’t share their troubles – including surviving the Depression – with Irene and her siblings. She remembered that he was home every night, his main concern being his family. When any of the children were sick he was by their bedsides.
For Ilene, this embodied the Anzac tradition.
The second article was some way down the pile, from October 2006 and called “On Higher Things” by John Armstrong. He explored what Higher Things might be through Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” and Immanuel Kant’s writing. John spoke of our human need to seek great answers to great questions that are outside the petty demands of daily life. However this did not mean that the answers were outside daily life. Tolstoy taught that the answers to the great questions such as “What should one love and what hate?” were found in rediscovering ourselves as genuinely loveable with something to offer to others. Kant taught that “the best and fullest expressions of humanity were to be found in three things: the appreciation of natural beauty, the love of goodness and freedom of mind.” And achieving these things was not connected to social privilege.
John brought his article to the conclusion that “Higher things don’t announce the superiority of a special group of people; they reveal, in the midst of normal weaknesses and troubles, the grandeur of our common humanity.”
As I let these last words flow through my mind, my thoughts turned back to the last Anzac. He lived and breathed these great answers. And the best thing was that, to him, this was quite ordinary.
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