In These Dark Days

In these dark days
When corruption abounds in the land—
When the tyrant and the scoundrel
Seem all one can find in the public hall—
And no hero can be found
Who is true to the core—

When the heretofore-trusted corporation
Has made its surprise entrance
Upon the stage, to fill up the measure
Of corruption that the sinister government
Cannot seem to manage alone—

When one’s fellows have put away
Truth and Justice from their truer ideals,
And reserve them only for occasional lip service
When criticizing their party’s foes—
And whatever good sense they may once have had
Is nowhere to be found in the heat of the rhetorical battle—
That ugly blame-shifting contest in which
All sin is to be condemned except their own—

I stand assured that Truth and Justice
Are as true and just as ever—
And that Righteousness is as right—
Even if we all should give ourselves over to foolishness
And baptize ourselves in the muck and filth of this world.

Experience has taught me that most will likely
Never have their fill of the corruption—
They’ll never be ready to cut to the chase—
To get on with the good stuff—
To a world where everyone yields himself to what is right.

And they will tell themselves—and you—
That such a world is impossible
On account of the abundance of fools in it.
And they can point the finger all day to show you what they mean—
Never realizing that they already showed you
The very essence and kernel of the world’s error
In the first instance of their pointing,
Since they did not first point to that one fool over whose choices
They could have complete control—
Whose habits they could change.

That change of self being the only legitimate
First step in changing this world,
They can change themselves
And no one else.
And the reason they do not change is that—
No matter what they may say—
No matter how they might pretend
And carry on—
They are unwilling to do what is
Right and just and fair and true
In all things.

In some things, sure.
But in all?
No, this little indulgence won’t hurt anything,
They tell themselves.

And so they do right in some things,
While in other things, reserving some indulgences for themselves.
And as if that weren’t evil enough,
They simultaneously bemoan the ruinous indulgence
Of the fools around them.

And this is the darkness of our day,
The pendulum at this moment swinging darker yet, it seems.

But here’s the thing.
Though all this be true
There is no limit to the
Virtue to which one may aspire,
Except whatever may be the limit
Of his desire for it.

So when they complain to you about
The wickedness of this world,
Don’t be fooled.
It’s not really wickedness that they hate;
It’s just the pointy end of the wickedness stick—
And only when it’s poked at them.
Otherwise to them, it’s not so bad.

And here I sit,
Having finally learned this much,
And having come to see it clearly,
As few seem to do.
Yet, even so, the battle is ever mine
To see that I keep myself
On the straight-and-narrow,
Even in the small matters—
Not only because they are so often
The seeds of the big matters,
But because true Righteousness is faithful
With little as with much.

The road to hypocrisy is a short one,
And it seems I set a toe—at least—upon it every day.
Erring frequently in thought or hunch or belief—
If not in my very bent—
And sometimes erring even further in decision or action.
And I am ever turning myself around
Upon realizing I have once again set upon that ugly road—
So wide and well-traveled
And from time to time,
Alluring in its various ways to my imperfect self.

Justice and Righteousness and Truth, however—
They are eternal.
They do not waver to and fro.
And on this account, they make very good friends
And mentors and guards.
And I have learned to trust them,
Even if I must still strive every day
To live out that trust against the tide
Of these dark days.

And now I see that it is the glory of man
Not necessarily to be flawless,
But to keep swimming towards that perfection,
Even against the darkest tide,
For as long as he shall live,
Correcting himself as often as he errs,
Whether the error be large or small.

God has surely set us here,
Knowing full-well what time it is,
And that the wise among us
Would invest in self-correction,
Having loved the promise of
That shining city,
Wherein we may finally be made whole.

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