Today has two sides, both of them important, one more serious than the other. I’m going to talk about the serious one first.
Part I: Remembrance
At 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the First World War came to an end. A minute before, they were still fighting. For hours and days afterwards, they were still dying. But on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month they laid down their weapons and took actions to cause no more death in the name of this war that the leaders of those countries no longer wished to fight. 70 million military personnel had been mobilised to fight, more than 9 million of those were killed, and countless more were injured, or would suffer for PTSD for years afterwards.
My sister and her husband are in the military. I’m not what you’d call ‘pro war’, and I protested against the Iraq war when it first began, but I appreciate the sacrifice of those who go to war in my name – both for the necessary wars and the good causes, and for the wars that I disapprove of. Because when you sign up to fight for your country you agree to fight for whatever the people of your country choose to fight for, whether it is a good thing or not; whether you, personally, approve of it or not. That’s an incredible thing to do. It is an honour to be protected by such people. It is an honour to have had this life I live in this world as I know it guaranteed by those who fought and died for me before I was born. It is an honour to have the continued protection of those who would lay down their lives for me now. You don’t have to be pro war to support those in the military – in fact, I doubt very many sane people are pro war in the strictest sense: no sane person wishes for death and suffering like war brings – and you don’t have to support any particular current war to give honour to those who fight in it. But if you allow others to fight and die for you, you do owe them something: remembrance.
Remember those who have died in all the wars since the First World War – the war to end all wars – this day at 11am.
Part II: Celebrate Life
11/11/11 is a very silly date. As someone who inputs great quantities of dates to pay the bills, I was looking forward to inputting this one today. However, I have a great quantity of research to get done, so I’ve taken the day off work. I’m missing out on the pleasure of all those once-in-a-life-time silly dates in the name of RESEARCH.
I’m a big fan of silliness. I think it’s an important part of life. On Remembrance Day, as much as any day, we must remember what those who die in our place are protecting: our right to live as happily as we’re able; to enjoy the simple, and the complex things, both; to live lives that are as happy as we are able to make them – lives that have room in them for the silly, the ridiculous, and the sublime. So, at 11 minutes past 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year of this our new millennium, I invite you all to break for elevenses. This is not my idea, I’m not even sure who started it, but I think it’s marvelous. Some might think that it undermines the importance of using this day to remember the dead, and the living who protect us now – I couldn’t disagree more. Celebration of life and remembrance of sacrifice should go hand in hand.
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to use a very silly date to do something remarkable. Do it. Remember the dead and celebrate the living, and the wonderful parts of the life you have the fortune to lead.