Monday, October 10, 2011

Fortitude and Principle

Times are tough out there, kiddos. And that means it’s tough all over, even at home. Especially at home sometimes, I’d argue, because the people we live with from day to day, who know us best, don’t allow us to blow smoke. The public persona might be, say, pleasantly quirky and against the grain. But at home it’s a genuine cheese grater, and when said personality is on the rack being stretched, things can get ugly. But enough about me. Francis Bacon said it best: “Domestic considerations commonly overthrow public ones.”

In other words, people all over America are digging in at home, looking for purchase on the slippery mud of the national economy, spinning their wheels in just about any direction—and that means the roughness outside sometimes slips into the family. I can feel it. Can’t you? This vague simmering malcontent? It’s everywhere. God knows what it’s doing to families all across the nation as we struggle for less and less while working harder and harder. The pent-up silent majority, those of us with reverence for traditional American values and rational thought, who value the individual, the hero, private property and liberty, are doing all we can to keep our heads down and stay in the harness and work our tails off trying to provide for our families. We do whatever it takes, and lately it’s taking a whole lot more.

I know from personal experience how painful it is. I know what it’s like to labor, to contend for something, to work all day, all week, all month, and for less—in the end—than all that work is worth. As the saying goes, “why is there so much month left at the end of the money?” Exactly. I know what it’s like to feel that most of what I do is all for naught. Like my work is missing something really really important; an indispensible part of itself: reward. I know what it’s like to throw up my hands at the end of the week and ask myself why I even try. I can define for you, in colorful terms, the meaning of futility.

Much like David, however, who wrote the most beautiful Psalms, there is reason to continue fighting. There is a “why.” There is meaning in the struggle. There are intangibles so important, so universally true that they are more real than the tangible. Principle, for one. My grandfather knew what this was. It’s the reason why a man stays married to his woman for sixty years plus. It’s why he goes to work and works hard, even when all of it is Hoovered from his hand by the bill collectors and tax collectors before he has a chance to get it home. It’s the reason why he wakes up in the morning and finds a way to make himself useful—employed—even when he’s unemployed. It’s stick-to-itiveness. It’s comportment, bearing, integrity; the kind of determination that would wither men of lesser stock in the same situation.

Moving forward on principle is continuing on the right course when no reward is within sight. It’s faith, in other words. It’s something in which we, in the midst of our affliction as a nation, are currently being tested. Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin: to number, to number, to weigh, to divide. I pray to God that the handwriting now appearing on the wall before us is not in fact a prophecy; that we are being weighed—but that, please, dear God, we will not be found wanting.

For the We in “We the People” to be more than the sum of our parts, the I, the individuals all across the land must make individual decisions to stand and continue to labor, and hard. We the People cannot be We the People without I the Hero: the man with an idea who does whatever it takes to see it succeed, the woman with a passion who works through whatever obstacles she encounters in order to see it through. The heroes are out there, walking amongst us. We are the stalwart dreamers who actively create betterment from the raw ore of the world over which God has given us dominion. Keep on in your labors, Hero Dreamer, Hero Thinker, Hero of Deeds. You, the Individual, are what gives worth and provides meaning. Think not of reward, and don’t esteem it. Trust in your faith that what you do now does indeed matter, and greatly. It is in the midst of blackest dark of night that the light shines brightest, and it becomes completely clear that the darkness has not overcome it. And, I add, it never shall.