Antique shops exert a peculiar fascination on a great many people. The more expensive kind of antique shop where rare objects are beautifully displayed in glass cases to keep them free from dust is usually a forbidding place. But no one has to muster up courage to enter a less pretentious antique shop. There is always hope that in its labyrinth of musty, dark, disordered rooms a real rarity will be found amongst the piles of assorted junk that litter the floors.
No one discovers a rarity by chance. A truly dedicated searcher for art treasures must have patience, and above all, the ability to recognize the worth of something when he sees it. To do this, he must be at least as knowledgeable as the dealer. Like a scientist bent on making a discovery, he must cherish the hope that one day he will be amply rewarded.
My old friend, Frank Halliday, is just such a person. He has often described to me how he picked up a masterpiece for a mere &5. One Saturday morning, Frank visited an antique shop in my neighbourhood. As he had never been there before, he found a great deal to interest him. The morning passed rapidly and Frank was about to leave when he noticed a large packing-case lying on the floor. The dealer told him that it had just come in, but that he could not be bothered to open it. Frank begged him to do so and the dealer reluctantly prised it open. The contents were disappointing. Apart from an interesting-looking carved dagger, the box was full of crockery, much of it broken. Frank gently lifted the crockery out of the box and suddenly noticed a miniature Painting at the bottom of the packing-case. As its composition and line reminded him of an Italian painting he knew well, he decided to buy it. Glancing at it briefly, the dealer told him that it was worth &5. Frank could hardly conceal his excitement, for he knew that he had made a real discovery. The tiny painting proved to be an unknown masterpiece by Correggio and was worth thousands of pounds.
Not until you realize that life itself is a beautiful thing will you really start to live. Although living combines tragedy with splendor, life is beautiful and even tragedies reflect something engaging. If you were simply to live, do more than that; live beautifully.
Through the sea of darkness, hope is the light that brings us comfort, faith, and reassurance. It guides our way if we are lost and gives us a foothold on our fears. The moment we lose hope is the moment we surrender our will to live. We live in a world that is disintegrating into a vicious hatred, where hope is needed more than ever but cannot be discerned. Finding that is rare while the world lives in fear, but the belief in something better, something bigger than this, is what keeps life worth living.
Then you hear a baby speaking her first word, you see seniors holding hands, you feel the first spring rain, or smell the pine tree at Christmas, and remember that no matter how awful it is, there is always hope. No matter how weak we are, we will always survive.
The word justice is usually associated with courts of law. We might say that justice has been done when a man’s innocence or guilt has been proved beyond doubt. Justice is part of the complex machinery of the law. Those who seek it, undertake an arduous journey and can never be sure that they will find it. Judges, however wise or eminent, are human and can make mistakes.
There are rare instances when justice almost ceases to be an abstract conception. Reward or punishment are out quite independent of human interference. At such times, justice acts like a living force. When we use a phrase like it serves him right, we are, in part, admitting that a certain set of circumstances has enabled justice to act of its own accord.
When a thief was caught on the premises of a large fur store one morning, the shop assistants must have found it impossible to resist the temptation to say ‘it serves him right’. The shop was an old-fashioned one with many large, disused fireplaces and tall, narrow chimneys. Towards midday, a girl heard a muffled cry coming from behind one of the walls. As the cry was repeated several times, she ran to tell the manager who promptly rang up the fire-brigade. The cry had certainly come from one of the chimneys, but as there were so many of them, the firemen could not be certain which one it was. They located the right chimney by tapping at the walls and listening for the man’s cries. After chipping through a wall which was eighteen inches thick, they found that a man had been trapped in the chimney. As it was extremely narrow, the man was unable to move, but the firemen were eventually able to free him by cutting a huge hole in the wall. The sorry-looking, blackened figure that emerged, at once admitted that he had tried to break into the shop during the night but had got stuck in the chimney. He had been there for nearly ten hours. Justice had been done even before the man was handed over to the police.