Pen as Sword - Social Commentary, The Inner Struggle

Take Up Our Quarrel with The Foe …

On November 10, 2016 the world lost another good one. Leonard Cohen died at the age of 82.

“Hallelujah”, Leonard Cohen, (1984)

We have rather failed in our commission, have we not?

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

by John McCrae, May 1915

Managers don’t take up quarrels, do they? Rather they just design and implement policy and manage same, whatever the policy may be.  Just following orders …  And has not Canada become a shining planetary example of a nation of managers in action. Are there any sleeping souls left at all in Flanders Fields?

For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), published in The Times newspaper on 21st September 1914.

“We will remember them.” Do we?  Do we really? Does our modern society even recognize the values and virtues which led the fallen to lay it all down for us? Really?



cdn-ddh-heavy-weather-87471.jpgI don’t recall ever meeting a manager at the sharp end. Even the Supply Bob was a sharpshooter. No room for managers at sea. Everyone works, everyone fights.

The Inner Struggle

Our Revels Now Are Ended

Leonard Cohen, 1984

Our Revels now are ended: These our actors,
(As I foretold you) were all Spirits, and
Are melted into Ayre, into thin Ayre,
And like the baselesse fabricke of this vision
The Clowd-capt Towres, the gorgeous Palaces,
The solemne Temples, the great Globe it selfe,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And like this insubstantiall Pageant faded
Leave not a racke behinde: we are such stuffe
As dreames are made on …Rounded with a sleepeThe Tempest Act 4, scene 1, 148–158

A year ago my mother died.  Whatever she may have made of her life she had decided that it was time to depart – at 92 – with all her things in order, no more lingering, just told the doctors to take out the tubes and stop trying to prolong her misery – “I’m done!  I’m ready to go!  Just let me go!”  A stubborn woman but also a very forgiving woman. A widow for over 30 years.  92 years is about as much as almost anyone gets and then what?

If this life is all there is then it is really pretty pathetic. If this life IS in fact just a training exercise, then eternity to think on how one conducted oneself. If this is all there is, then what is the point? If this is all there is then we live on as cowards because we lack the courage to end this pointless coil of excreting and breathing and destroying everything around us. The triumph of the banal. Unless this is just a training exercise, in which case there is much to hope for.  Right or wrong I find it a comfort.

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
— To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.  — Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)



The Inner Struggle

Reconciliation …

Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen, 1984

The unforgiven, no, not the movie, just all the “enemies” one may have made or met, for whatever reason, in one’s life. How many are left, and how many are left unforgiven? Forgiving oneself, and others, can be a grim place to look but not as grim as a life spent not looking. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” is probably one of the most important lines of the prayer that begins the communion Rite in the Catholic Mass.

Grim, grim, grim. A life spent not looking. A life where any and every suggestion that one is not actually practically perfect in every way is immediately taken as a personal attack, instead of the well intended observation, a messenger from our better nature. Of course it must be immediately counterattacked with a scorched earth wave of vengeance, a full court press of belittling scorn,  a heaping helping of shame transference, until the messenger is beaten into submission and surrenders even as the proof of the suggestion has just unfolded in detail for everyone around to feast on.

And, isolated upon that blasted heath, that no-man’s land of spiritual desolation, one must try to muster up the fortitude and compassion to forgive the offender, not only for the original transgression, however serious, but for the subsequent emotional violation as well. Forgive, because to be forgiven one must forgive. And which among us does not need forgiveness. Forgive the shallowness, contempt, envy, evil fantasies, devaluation of others, impatience, judgement, the outright harm done directly to another. …

Forgive, lest we find ourselves unforgiven when our accounts are called and the forensic audit of our life is held. Life in the balance.

The late Adrian Rogers recalled an event: “a young man walked up to another man in Chicago and asked him where a bar was at.  The bar was called “The Gates of Hell.”  The man giving directions told the young man to go by Calvary Church and just keep going and he’d find the bar.  Here are his bone-chilling words: “Keep on going right past Calvary and you’ll find The Gates of Hell.”  Irony of ironies was not lost on this occasion. Go past Calvary and you’ll be headed straight for the gates of hell and for many, there is no hurry.”



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