Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Promise of Joy

A Literary Interlude

So it was going forward as he had planned it, intervention on his terms, where and in such manner as he thought would be successful. The event was indeed in the hands of God. And supposing it would succeed, as he believed likely, what then for his frightened country and the shaken world?

He knew the answer.

Infinite pains, infinite patience, infinite struggle and strain. Infinite labor that would have to go on for years, decades, possibly generations before it could be said that a truly stable peace had finally been achieved.

And that, perhaps, was the key to it: the unceasing struggle, the fugitive joy, the recurrent pain, the endless, mostly heartbreaking endeavor.

"Let us," Lafe Smith had said, quoting on a dark and dismal night, "wear upon our sleeves the crepe of mourning for a civilization that held the promise of joy."

The promise of joy.

Not the easy certainty. Not the painless assurance. Not the comfortable guarantee.

Just - the promise.

That, perhaps, was all that the American experiment, all that any experiment in human governance that sprang from essentially decent motives, could hold out - the promise of joy. A promise always elusive, always fleeting, never quite captured, never quite achieved, here today, gone tomorrow, back again the next day - if you kept working and struggling and, above all, if you never gave up. If you hung on and kept trying, all of you, unto the last generation.

If his successors - for successors he still believed there would be - were strong, were determined, never lost sight of the essential goodness of the American experiment and the essential goodness of all other sincere and well-meaning peoples wherever they might reside on troubled Earth - then just possibly, somewhere far beyond his lifetime and maybe far beyong many other subsequent lifetimes, the promise of joy might sometime - somehow - someday - be kept for his country and all mankind.

But more likely that was all it was, or could ever be: a promise.

A promise forever worth the seeking - but only a promise.

All ye of faint heart and wavering will who seek the certainty of joy, he told them quietly in his mind, forget it.

It does not exist.

-- Allen Drury, The Promise of Joy

"They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right." Ronald Reagan

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