Baker, James

Letter
Date:
January 31, 1942
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
Jan. 31st, 1942

Dear Mom,

Well here I am again as hearty as ever if not quite as hale as I might be. I suppose you'll want to know all about my arm so I'll tell you right away that its coming on, they've really opened a hole this time, done what I have secretly thought they should have done months ago, namely scraped the bone then sewed up part of the opening to irrigate the whole cavity while it is healing to make certain that there is no recurrence of infection. I have been having hot foments every hour for the past three days and though they are drawing quite a lot, they are making my arm awfully sore. But I suppose I have to put up with that because I really want to get this thing finished with this time. It is such an irritating influence, having that nagging persistent worry at the back of the mind continually....surprised that it has taken such a long time. Another thing that is worrying me is the condition of my teeth. The teeth in front are beautiful - white and lustreful, but the ones behind are continually becoming pitted with cavities. I go to the dentist every so often and get all the cavities filled, but each time I go there are more. I am beginning to think that I must have a calcium deficiency in my body and the body is making up for it by absorbing the calcium from my teeth. If that is so, it can only mean one of two things: either there is a deficiency of calcium in our food or I personally am suffering from a deficiency of Vitamin D which enables the body to absorb calcium. I would like to talk with the dentist about it but the one here is such a butcher, I hate him to even touch me. It's just moral cowardice I know; I must go to see him.

Well Mom, I am going to send you something that I have been working on for a long time. It is a copy of all my best poems - including the more recent ones; also copies of some of my own ideas and essays which I have been thinking rather a lot about lately. One of them "Think on These Things" I have sent to the editor of the Winnipeg Free Press but I don't suppose they will think of printing it because it is too political in nature. I have come to the conclusion that if I want to write such articles and want to have them printed; I had better start off a little nearer home in a small country paper. So I am thinking of writing "letters to the editor" of the Surrey Leader. I have been reading such a lot of politics and economics lately as well as talking a lot about it with people that I meet that I find I have such a lot of new ideas that I feel I must pass on if I can. It may seem presumptuous on my part but I feel that I have a definite "calling" that I must impart: especially to young people at home in Canada. If only I had a chance to get away by myself for awhile and had a chance to think clearly without interruption, I feel that I would have something very definite to say. That is what I am beginning to hate so very much about the Army and it is a hate too! I have never had one whole day uninterruptedly by myself for over a year, except when I was on leave. Even here in hospital it is worse than anywhere else. It is absolutely impossible to concentrate on anything. I must have quiet and I can't seem to find it anywhere. Sometimes I feel so frustrated that I almost throw up my hands and say "What's the use...I can't do it!" but all the time there seems to be something in the background which is forever nagging me on to try again. So I keep trying.

Here is my idea: I believe that young people between the ages of nineteen and twenty-five are thinking more deeply of world-problems today then they ever have before. But they are leaderless, they have nothing in which they can believe. They have nothing in which to place their Faith. Due to the intricacies and dirty dealings of party-affiliations, they have lost their faith in politics and they shy away from them whenever they are mentioned. And they have also lost their Faith in the church because the church - instead of being their leader and influencing them to follow, has put the people - and especially the young people, in the false position of leaders and have voiced their aggregate opinions of the people instead of giving them a definite course to follow that will lead them above themselves. Perhaps I can explain better what I mean if I come down to concrete examples: before the war began, every clergyman shouted from his pulpit that we must not go to war at any cost, that it was against all Christ's teaching to go to war against our fellow man and we must avoid at any cost that which would involve us in the war. Now this is a good teaching and I am not for one moment saying anything against it. But after all, every thinking man and woman knew in his or her own heart that we must not go to war but what they did-not know, was how to avoid going to war. When they turned in bewilderment to their churches they found no help there because all the church was doing was voicing their own opinion and bewilderment. And then when war was forced upon us and people were relunctantly (at first only) turning towards war, what did we find? The startling paradox of a church - which had before done everything in its power to deter us ‘from' war now urging us on ‘to' war with all the vehemence at its command. All it was doing was voicing the opinion of the majority of people - again.

I am not quarreling with the church for its attitude towards war. What I am saying is that it has lost its position of leadership and authority and has no influence upon people - especially young people, at all. Either the church must regain its position of leadership or there must be a new ‘something' arise in which we can place our Faith. That new ‘something' has arisen in China in what is called the "New Life Movement" sponsored by Generalissano Chiang Kia-Chek and his wife. It has given the Chinese something difinite to fight for - and due to their new Faith, there has been a stiffening of their resistance, a stirring deep in their depths that promises to sweep the invaders into the sea.

I only wish we had that "Faith". I have not myself got the complete idea - only glimmerings now and then which shine for a moment but elude me ever time I try to persue them. Now what I would like to do would be to talk to young people and get their ideas, get them thinking, I would like to get older people interested also and try to create a spirit of cooperation between them. There is too great a gap between the ideas of the young people and their elders. I want to bring them closer together. I have not exactly got the idea what I want to say yet, but I am sure it is in there, only waiting for the spark to set it off. But do you think what I have said is right? Do you agree with my views of the church and politics? I'm convinced that there must emerge from this welter of conflicting ideas and ideals a fuller public appreciation of the moral obligations of every individual towards the whole world, a fuller understanding of world political and economic problems and a greater willingness on the part of every person to study and try to solve these problems. We cannot much longer continue in the dangerous practise of evading the issues as fast as they appear, of depending upon someone else to do our personal thinking for us. We must be willing to accept responsibility. Do you know that the common people over here have almost unlimited belief that out of America will come the new ‘Faith' that they are waiting for? Are the people of America fully aware of that belief? And if they are, are they slipping into their old dangerous habit of evading their responsibility? I believe they are and I want to try to wake them to the fact. But I suppose you must think I am rather like the king who tried to command the sea to obey him, and sometimes I feel like it myself. But all the time there is that persistent nagging that won't leave me. Why oh why couldn't I just be a plain ordinary person like the thousands of others around me, instead of continually thinking and worrying about all these problems? Well, tell me what you think, am I crazy or not?

Meanwhile, love to you all and write soon -

Jim



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