To Risk Delight

This poem by Jack Gilbert is shocking in some respects but it is a reminder that in difficult times we are urged to ‘risk delight’, or in the words of singer Bruce Cockburn,
 "Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight."
The prayer at the end is a counterpoint to the poem so as not to make me complacent!
The guilt of our undeserving affluence sometimes leads us to an immobility to take delight , to forget the wonders of the world and the human qualities and actions that can still emerge out of the worst tragedies.  
The worst evils are those that quench and destroy the human spirit, but the resilience in human nature does show up despite the appalling conditions and tragedies of our existence. 
The line in the poem that strikes me most is the one that makes me hope not to become worn down by feelings of helplessness, not to allow the bad to make me so embittered and cynical that I cannot appreciate the good.

"To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil."

That does not mean that I ignore injustices nor does it mean that passivity and lazy acceptance of the status quo are OK,  but sometimes when evil overwhelms it is time to actively stretch out to the goodness of God. 

This video by Louie Schwartzberg called Gratitude  is certainly worth a few moments of your time - it is really beautiful.

A Brief for the Defense by Jack Gilbert

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.

Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well.
The poor women at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick.
There is laughter every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. 
To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

Jack Gilbert, Refusing Heaven, Knopf

by Sr. Ruth Fox, OSB (1985)

May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.
May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.
May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

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