Saturday, February 05, 2011

The Necessary Role

I'm writing tonight from a laptop recharging station near Gate D2 of the Salt Lake City airport. It's about an hour until the Delta red-eye to JFK is scheduled to board.

I paid a first visit to Utah this week to exhibit for my gig at the Southwest Liturgical Conference Study Week.

On Thursday, I visited Temple Square, the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I also attended a beautiful Mass at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, the seat of the Catholic bishop of Salt Lake City.

But, for much of the week, I was trying to keep up with the news of the anti-government protests in the cities of Egypt. Sometimes events like this can be pivot points for world history.

Prayers were going up too, of course -- prayers that good, non-violent, democratic leaders will emerge and bring Egypt through a peaceful transition to real democracy and freedom.

Amos Niven Wilder (1895-1993), a New Testament scholar and the brother of Thornton Wilder, once penned a poem saluting the brave among us who risk for a greater good. I hope it's not mawkish to post it here in honor of the Egyptian people:

To those who offer themselves willingly in the day of decision,
In the great arbitrament,
Who are prompt at the gate,
And who present themselves foremost at the fords of Megiddo,
And take their stations at the narrow issues:
Theirs are the great jeopardies, the necessary role,
the memorable name,
Their encounter is with the heart of darkness.

For some the searchings of heart, the scruple, the fastidious witness,
For others the fateful evasion, the abiding reproaches,
For many the frivolous and the usual occasions.
But these on the crumbling levees match themselves with the infuriate flood.

These beneath the waves toil at the primeval sea-walls
Whose courses were laid against chaos.
These repair the moles erected of old against the ravining deep.
These descend where the nethermost piers of history are building,
And place their lives if need be at the foundation of all the ages of glory to come.

From "The Healing of the Waters" published in 1943 by HarperCollins Publishers. The paragraph breaks are mine.

The photo above is credited to Tara Todras-Whitehill/Associated Press.

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