Monday, August 27, 2007

Not Once, But Many

Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side...

by James R. Lowell, in the Boston Courier, December 11, 1845. Lowell wrote these words as a poem protesting America’s war with Mexico. The poem was eventually set to music, and I came to know it as a stirring hymn. You can hear the various tunes and see the entire excellent poem with notes about James Lowell at http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/o/n/oncetoev.htm

Not Once, But Many

Despite the credo
In so much of faith
That there is one
Fateful moment
Of choice - good or
Evil, black or white,
I believe, I do,
That faith and goodness
Works its way in the world
Through much more subtle means.

Every day, every moment,
We choose, among
A multitude of options –
Action, inaction, and many
Variations of each.
It is not merely the doing,
But the way of doing,
Or not doing.
It is not merely the doing,
But the way we think
About the doing.
It is not merely the doing,
But the way we talk
Or write, or paint
About the doing
That matters.

Very few of us are given
Great roles in epic stories.
We are small pieces
In a great and subtle
Mosaic that shifts and
Shimmers from moment to
Moment, and changes as
The sun rises, moves and sets.
And most of us are not
All one color.
We are shaded and
Dappled and muti-hued.
Even saints must be
More than one purity.
True greatness lies,
I believe, not in
Any singleness or
Flat virtue, but in
The magnificent
Interplay of dark and light,
The complexity of
Temperament and will.
And there is not a battle
So much as a garden,
Which benefits from
Small choices, and
Tiny gestures of grace
And beauty,
Made moment to moment
In all our lives.


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