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9.10.08

In her poem "In Distrust of Merits," Marianne Moore posits that the mutual distrust that promotes war may be overcome, suggesting that the "contagion of trust can make trust." She asks readers to look inward to understand the causes of war and offers hope that if one can win internal battles, war may be averted in the future.

In Distrust of Merits   
 
Strengthened to live, strengthened to die for
        medals and positioned victories?
They're fighting, fighting the blind
        man who thinks he sees,—
who cannot see that the enslaver is
enslaved; the hater, harmed. 

O shining, O firm star, O tumultuous
               ocean lashed till small things go
        as they will, the mountainous
               wave makes us who look, know
 depth.  Lost at sea before they fought! O
        star of David, star of Bethlehem,
O black imperial lion
        of the Lord -emblem
of a risen world — be joined at last, be
joined.  There is hate's crown beneath which all is
        death; there's love's without which none
               is king; the blessed deeds bless
        the halo.  As contagion
          of sickness makes sickness,
 
contagion of trust can make trust.  They're
        fighting in deserts and caves, one by
one, in battalions and squadrons;
        they're fighting that I
may yet recover from the disease, My
Self; some have it lightly; some will die.  'Man's
        wolf to man' and we devour
               ourselves.  The enemy could not
        have made a greater breach in our
               defenses.  One pilot-
 ing a blind man can escape him, but
        Job disenheartened by false comfort knew
that nothing can be so defeating
        as a blind man who
can see.  O alive who are dead, who are
proud not to see, O small dust of the earth
        that walks so arrogantly,
               trust begets power and faith is
        an affectionate thing.  We    
               vow, we make this promise
 
to the fighting—it's a promise—'We'll
        never hate black, white, red, yellow, Jew,
Gentile, Untouchable.'  We are
        not competent to
make our vows.  With set jaw they are fighting,
fighting, fighting,—some we love whom we know,
        some we love but know not—that
               hearts may feel and not be numb.
        It cures me; or I am what
               I can't believe in?  Some
in snow, some on crags, some in quicksands,
        little by little, much by much, they
are fighting fighting that where
        there was death there may
be life.  'When a man is prey to anger,
he is moved by outside things; when he holds
        his ground in patience patience
               patience, that is action or
        beauty,' the soldier's defense
               and hardest armor for
 
the fight.  The world's an orphans' home.  Shall
        we never have peace without sorrow?
without pleas of the dying for
        help that won't come?  O
quiet form upon the dust, I cannot
look and yet I must.  If these great patient
        dyings-all these agonies
               and wound bearings and bloodshed—
        can teach us how to live, these
               dyings were not wasted.
 
Hate-hardened heart, O heart of iron
        iron is iron till it is rust.
There never was a war that was
        not inward; I must
fight till I have conquered in myself what
causes war, but I would not believe it. 
        I inwardly did nothing.
               O Iscariot-like crime!
        Beauty is everlasting
               and dust is for a time.
 
                                -  Marianne Moore, 1944

And this:

“The first step toward freedom from anger is to keep the lips silent when the heart is stirred; the next, to keep thoughts silent when the soul is upset; the last, to be totally calm when unclean winds are blowing.”

--St. John Climacus

(The Ladder of Divine Ascent: Step 8)

- An Anonymous Matushka


 

 
 

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