What Matters in the End?

Here is one answer, from playwright, author, actor Alice Childress:  “Life is just a short walk from the cradle to the grave, and it sure behooves us to be kind to one another along the way.”

And here is another, from the poem, On Another’s Sorrow, by 18th century poet and visionary William Blake:

Can I see anothers woe,
And not be in sorrow too.
Can I see anothers grief,
And not seek for kind relief.

Can I see a falling tear
And not feel my sorrows share,
Can a father see his child,
Weep, nor be with sorrow fill’d.

Can a mother sit and hear,
An infant groan an infant fear—
No no never can it be.
Never never can it be.

Blake’s poem goes on to speak of God’s sorrow, of Jesus’s sorrow, who also cannot bear the sufferings of their beloved creatures, No, no, never can it be.

Heaven's Grace

But not everyone subscribes to this point of view. Far from it. I therefore dedicate this post to those members of Congress whose response to their fellow humans is to vote to defund the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for the hungry, whose response to the sufferings and illnesses of others is to fight any attempt to help and heal, whose response to not having their way is to vote to close down the government and throw thousands upon thousands of their neighbors out of work. Neither mothers nor fathers they, not by Blake’s lights. No, they are rather dogs in the manger, snarling, snapping, biting; hard-hearted like Pharoah of the Bible, with no more signs of softening than he. If such cannot, as Childress advises, be kind to others, at least let them be cautious. In the end, Pharoah in all his pride and power was brought down by plagues. Do you really think it can’t happen to you?

(I owe an apology to those actual four-footed creatures whose lives and loyalty give such mean-spirited human creatures lessons in compassion and fellow feeling.)

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24 Responses to What Matters in the End?

  1. Where to begin? Blake…1) scored an A in my finals so lurve him. !b) Jerusalem has to be played at my exit 2) I actually said to Mr C that if I lived in Venice Beach for a few months a year (which is ONE of my ambitions) I would put a food package in my trash can for the people I saw going through private bins last week 3) hello American underbelly 4) it’s bad enough here 5) de temps en temp I KNOW it can happen to me!

    Great post!

  2. Patti Kuche says:

    What’s a spot of hunger compared to the right to own a gun . . . grrrr!

  3. Jen Payne says:

    I remain astonished that there was not more of an outcry about the shutdown. That WE, collectively, did not revolt, sit-in, STOP participating in a government that is no longer working. We should have stopped working along with our neighbors who were forced to. Stopped shopping, stopped paying taxes, stopped working. Even for one day – can you imagine the message in that? We forget that WE have the power. There is strength in numbers – but first we must find common ground…and a REAL desire to make the change we all say we want.

    • Touch2Touch says:

      Indignation as a national emotion seems to have been extinguished. It’s Yeats’ The Second Coming all over again, “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with passionate intensity”.
      Where is the passionate intensity of the best?
      Ah well, the sun is shining and it’s mild today and it’s a good day for counting blessings. So, let’s —

  4. So well put, Judith – and if only more people thought this way! This reluctance to acknowledge issues such as healthcare as a basic human right (and the crazy power of the gun lobby, as Patti mentions) are very hard to comprehend from afar.
    Also a Blake fan!

    • Touch2Touch says:

      You can imagine then, Karen, how hard they are to comprehend up close, where their evils are still more glaring and their irrationality so very frightening.
      Thanks much for coming by and commenting; that is a bright spot in today!

  5. I don’t know what to say, only to shake my head, sigh, and wonder when and how it is all going to end? there was a great, short editorial in the local paper about caring for others – France is dealing with thousands of refugees – and I cut it out as it was so heartfelt and well written. A cry in the wilderness perhaps more as more and more of us cry out, the sound of our anguish will move mountains. it has to.

    • Touch2Touch says:

      There is a Yiddish word that expresses exactly what I feel upon reading your comment: Alevai. Which means roughly, From your mouth to God’s ear!
      I hope all is going wonderfully well for you and your sweetie in La Belle France.
      (We saw a wonderful French movie today called Haute Cuisine, different name in French, fictionalized account of a true story, about a woman who was tapped to be Mitterand’s personal chef at the Palais Elysée.)

  6. Hi Judith,

    A poetic and powerful plea. A call for politicians and the public to remember that government is about governing; and governing is an active and collaborative endeavor. It demands that participants be fully engaged in the hard work necessary to promote the common good. Empathy, compassion, communication, maturity, and a moral compass with a GPS programed to take “the road less traveled” are essential to do this work. It’s saddening that these qualities seem to be missing in our politicos and in a small (in number and mindedness) yet motivated group of fear mongers and silo dwellers.



    • Touch2Touch says:

      Adrienne, I am blown away by your eloquence and clarity. This says so much in small compass; it could be a blueprint for proper governance. Actually it SHOULD be a blueprint for proper governance.
      What to do, what to do about it all — I am continually overcome with futility and/or anger. How do you keep your balance? (And it’s clear from this that you DO keep the balance, and the sanity.)

  7. purringly says:

    I totally agree with all of the above, even if I’m not able to express it all that eloquently. Empathy, and solidarity with our fellow man, seems to be lacking to a great extent. Loved your apology to the animals too :)

  8. 2e0mca says:

    Being an outsider in the Uk I have to say that the way that certain sections of your government feel it’s ok to behave is beyond what I would find acceptable and I can’t envisage such a situation occurring in the UK version of democracy. That doesn’t mean that ours is any better, just different. We wind up with workers having pay freezes while ($)ankers are supported by our current right wing government – I understand that a well known financial firm is holding a charity event at our football club in the near future – black tie event which rules the normal fans out – presumably the charity is one that supports dissolute ($)ankers who didn’t get a £1M bonus :-( Well done on surviving the McCarthy period miss Communiss ;-) More power to your elbow in raising these issues Judith :-)

    • Touch2Touch says:

      That’s often what it makes me think of, Martin. The McCarthy era. Mine was The Silent Generation, although many of us burned silently within. Finally Joseph Welch had the courage to speak out and McCarthy collapsed like a burst balloon.
      Well, the dynamics are different now and it’s doubtful our own (expletive, different from your expletives) will collapse readily. They’re big bullies, though, and bullies often snivel before the brave — but where are the brave? Surely not John Bonehead (or Boner, depends on your point of view) leader of the majority in the House of Representatives. He is a profile in cowardice.
      Grrrrrrrrr —-

  9. 2e0mca says:

    The brave will appear – though it may take some time – from small talk large conversations are made and eventually public votes guided by the discussions of the little people will oust those who care not. Good luck in your endeavours Judith :-)

  10. Pauline says:

    It seems citizen apathy has developed along with the growth of the country. When we hand power to others on the strength of their promises to do well by us, we become complacent. I don’t think our government was ever meant to be run without our participation, which is far different than running with only our occasional input. Perhaps if we had a true co-government, more sensible rules by which our leaders had to live by, i.e. paid only when they work and no benefits, including pay, beyond their term of office, we’d attract more civic minded people rather than the greedy beings running things now.

    • Touch2Touch says:

      I think participatory government, the real thing, may not be possible beyond a certain size. Quantity can affect quality, and that perhaps is one of the things we’re seeing. Our population expands exponentially, and the nation when I was young a thousand years ago, while already large, still allowed more room for the personal than the VAST MASS of today.
      Civics was actually a subject we were taught in grade school! As I’m sure you were too — No longer.
      So I agree with you, Pauline — but I don’t see any possibility for true co-government under our present circumstances.
      As for the greedy beings of the moment — they run a gamut from U to V, unspeakable to vile. And heartless, to boot. God bless America, we desperately need someone or something to bless us.

      • Pauline says:

        Yes, size matters. It’s true of all organizations – the larger they are, the more attention is paid to the organization and not what they originally organized for – most often to help in some fashion. So, no doubt you are right that we cannot have a true participatory government without chopping this one to bits and starting over (which we both know will never happen). It makes me quite nervous for our future when I read about the reduction of our rights pushed through or hidden in bills meant for other purposes. The people making our laws don’t seem to be suffering the consequences the way those are who have no recourse.

        • Touch2Touch says:

          It is quite a conundrum. Perhaps there IS no solution, perhaps evolution (for this too is a kind of evolution) is simply moving us from a good place to a less-than-good place.
          Sometimes I think Massachusetts ought to secede; or at least vow to go it with the original New England states, which seem to me to remain closer to their origins than a good deal of the rest of the country. :-(

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