Putting feathers on dinosaurs


by Major Terry CamseyIt’s funny how something can be said that sets off a whole new train of thought.

Recently, for instance, I was eating breakfast and half listening to the television news when I heard the announcer say that one American museum is sticking feathers on dinosaurs in readiness for a new exhibition. They actually showed people doing this, and I don’t believe I have ever seen weirder looking creatures. One of them actually had some peacock feathers.

I was reminded of the old saying that “fine feathers make fine birds“! And that, in turn, set me thinking about reactions to suggestions that the uniform might be changed. There has been support both for and against the present uniform. That in itself is interesting because I would reckon that, if we could get all the variations of uniform worn during the week (perhaps even on Sundays in some corps) on display, we would discover that there really isn’t any uniformity about the uniform. (I saw one Salvationist years ago with silver doves on his epaulets!)

The interesting thing about dinosaurs is that, even with feathers on, they are still dead! (There is a possibly not-too-well disguised challenge in that statement if we were to take it as a metaphor for things that have failed to evolve in the Army.)

In the early days of the Army we read that people put together their own uniform before it was later standardized. The history books tell us that some (men) put feathers on their caps (assuming, no doubt that it was a feather in their cap), but would cut the feathers off the hats of women coming to the mercy seat because they were too ostentatious!

Now, just a day or two previous to hearing about the feathered dinosaurs, my wife gave me a passage from a book she is using for her devotions. It says this…

There is nothing wrong with our learning from the past, provided it does not turn the present into a museum and the future into a cemetery. Someone has said, ‘Tradition is the living face of dead people, while traditionalism is the dead face of living people.’ Is the past encouraging you or embalming you?”

It’s a good question and it is so easy to get the two (tradition and traditionalism) confused, wouldn’t you say?

A final thought came as I was sifting through some papers and came across a note I had made some many months ago. It referred to a statement by Lyle E. Schaller who said “The innovator is not an opponent of the old, he is a proponent of the new.” He went on to comment “A proponent of the new seldom is trapped (as so happens with opponents of the old) into becoming part of a veto block opposed to any change.”

That, too, is a subtle difference and one worth noting. Our core values should not change, but our methodology must if we are to respond adequately to external environmental changes.

I believe we have to continue to ask, honestly, of all we do “For whose benefit are we doing this?” If it is for our own comfort and enjoyment, that seems to be counter to Booth’s maxim of “others.”

So, will putting feathers on dinosaurs make any difference to their survival, or is making them look pretty somewhat akin to the ostrich’s bent for sticking his head in the sand so that the world around disappears?

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