I am wearied by this world,
Its endless waves washing ashore
Day after weary day,
And filled as they are with the rubbish
Of what might have been fixed already—
Each filthy rush a testimony
To how few really care to make things right—
Or know how.
And who, seeing this, could not wish
For a better world?
And don’t we all,
In this way or that?
Yet no one can make it better for the wishing—
Nor even for the trying—
Except for that tiny part of the mess
That is his own—
That one part of it in eight billion
That he has created himself
By way of his own errors
In thought and decision
And belief and deed.
These he could set out to fix—
To do his part at ridding the world
Of the evils he himself has thrust upon it
In his days so far—
And in sparing the world of those he might have
Otherwise thrust upon it tomorrow—
To tidy up after himself
And to make amends
And to speak up for what is right
By having done what is right himself.
But who would choose such a course
When it is so much easier to fuss at the waves
As if he had no part in their filth himself?
Indeed! Who would be so just
As to refuse to discount
His own role in the mess
While raging at the wearisome whole of it?
Who would be so brilliant of heart
As to see what he owes to the cure—
And to make it so—
Even if the cluttered beach
Should look quite the same with his share
Of the trash removed?
Such a one would know that
He had done right,
Whether the others did likewise or not—
Whether they noticed or not.
And he would be the one most worthy
Of that better world for which we all wish
In some form or another—
And the one most apt to know how to build it,
If it had not been built already—
That great world in which everyone else is
Upright and kind and untwisted.
And upon going there,
He would surely witness
Among its myriad glories
That most somber occasion
Upon which the ordinary man
Would be sternly turned away,
Though having expected to be
Welcomed with open arms,
Yet never having figured out that
In a great world in which everyone else is
Upright and kind and untwisted,
There would naturally be no room for
One who was not.
And so they stand even now on this beach,
Bemoaning the rot of this world
As it pours in each day,
And wishing it removed by hands not their own—
Whether God’s or man’s, they do not really care—
And wishing for a world in which
The sad state of their own souls did not matter,
Just as they assume it does not really matter here.
And this is their idea of heaven.
And standing in this present filth,
They marvel at it and revel in the hope of their heaven,
While the one odd soul in the distance
Picks up his own trash.
And being one of the relatively few aspiring
To pollute this world no further
With what goes on in my mind,
It is hard not to be grow weary of the surf
From time to time, at least,
And to be disappointed
That so many seem so slow to catch on—
That so few projects bear the fruit it seems they could.
And I wonder whether I really understand myself—
Though I think I do—
That the key to fixing this world completely
Is not one key in the hand of a grand hero,
But eight billion keys in the hands of
Eight billion people who could
Learn this one-person lesson for themselves
If they wanted—
Each of their lives having been set here,
As was mine,
For their chance at learning the lesson
And moving on to the world
That was made for those who
Cared to find their keys
And give them a go.
This surf is the fruit of each of us
Making his go at the world,
With his mistakes and successes—
His victories and losses—
His rights and his wrongs.
And here we all stand with it lapping at our feet,
Sprinkled so much more with bad than good.
But do I begrudge my fellow man
The chance to make his errors
And to have his go at it
While on his own watch?
Do I resent the cost to me
Of his deficit in learning?—
As if I myself were not still
Making errors and learning as I go?
Do I resent him stepping on my toes
As he learns to walk straight?
Indeed, I am not yet done myself,
Though having got a good deal of it figured out,
Even still, I so quickly lose sight of my own remaining imperfection,
And assume the bulk of what ails me to be
The error of others.
And yes, they are still wrong in so many ways,
And life would indeed be better if they’d cut it out,
But am I not in this same crucible, too,
Set right alongside them and
Committing errors of the same general sort,
Having not yet become flawless myself?
It is tempting to think that if only
I were to become perfect in forgiveness,
I would no longer be wearied by this beach,
But I’m not so sure that’s true.
I think it’s supposed to be hard here, and that
The Heaven’s a haven of rest from it—
And of reward for having used the key we were given,
To do our best at doing right
And to wrestle with ourselves over it all
And to see where we fall short
And to learn the humility needed
To keep trying, rather than simply
To fold our arms and pout about it all.
And my, do we ever fall short, it seems!
But no, that’s not true, either,
For we do not always fail.
No, we do learn and overcome sometimes.
So there’s no rule to be found in our failure, either,
However tempting it may be to believe it—
And especially in such a great company with those who do
Believe that notion.
So it tires me to keep on this straight and narrow—
To turn away neither to the left, nor to the right—
Though there are so many opportunities
For such error.
And I wonder that there should be
Some plan in all this after all—
Some purpose for it, being worked
By the one who set us here for a time
So that we could see whether we would
Want to live in that Holy City
In his second world of two—
And whether we should be fit for it—
Both of which questions may well be one and the same.
And in my wearier moments here,
I can take hope in the idea
That life doesn’t grow weary there,
And that this shall all have been
Well worth the trouble of learning and enduring
These things I have read.