“To Come to Light” is a Thanksgiving sermon Frye delivered on October 5th, 1986 to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of Victoria College.
In moments of despair or bereavement or horror, we find ourselves staring blankly into an unresponding emptiness, utterly frustrated by its indifference. We come from the unknown at birth, and we rejoin it at death with all our questions about it unanswered. Sometimes we wonder whether humanity is capable of living in any world at all where consciousness is really a function of life. In a century of nuclear bombs and a pollution that threatens even the supply of air to breath and water to drink, the human race seems like a kind of crazy Oedipus, obsessed by the desire to kill his father God and rape his mother Nature. . .
The impression of a mindless universe is one that we get from certain aspects of nature. As long as we feel alone with a world of natural objects, where everything is an “it,” whatever is conscious will be an ego or “I,” and human society a collection of egos. Nature, not being conscious, doesn’t care whether we have any knowledge or not: we, so far as we are merely egos, care about knowledge only as a way of getting one step ahead of the next person. Such a society is what the Bible means by the Tower of Babel: a world where people either do not understand us or are simply distorted echoes of ourselves. Nations in this kind of world become hysterically hostile, piling up weapons with a kind of lethargic panic, yet half fascinated too by the thought of the destruction they would cause. The arts and sciences do what they can to make better sense of things, but a Tower of Babel society can use art and science only for exploitation, whether of other human beings or of nature. (CW 4, 364)
We can start by being thankful that we’ve not yet become self-destructive enough to play this terrible scenario through. And we might also be thankful that those growing up just behind us may prove to be wiser than we have been; that they may know Thanksgiving is not just another occasion to indulge ourselves, and recognize as we have not how rare is our blessing and how complete is our responsibility to it.