Sunglasses of Mercy: A Poem for the Eclipse

Sunglasses of Mercy: A Poem for the Eclipse August 21, 2017









Tell all the truth but tell it slant —

Success in Circuit lies

Too bright for our infirm Delight

The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased

With explanation kind

The Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind — Emily Dickinson


Anticipating the eclipse,

I’m thinking of light and darkness,

Truth and its blinding brightness

The fragility of the human mind,

And seeing through a glass darkly.


I’m thinking about the shadow of myth

That has shrouded humanity

Since the foundation of the world.


I’m thinking of sacrifices to fearsome gods

Of mobs coalescing out of chaos and descending on the vulnerable

To bring peace through the solidarity of collective murder.


I’m thinking of how little has changed through the centuries

As we still send young men and women to die

To bring order out of chaos.


I’m thinking of the distortion that comes

From seeing who we are

Through the lens of comparison to those we are glad not to be.

I’m thinking of the blindness to our own faults

That comes from defining ourselves against others

And the violence that stems

From stumbling around with battering rams in our eyes.


But I’m also thinking that

If we truly knew

How much death and destruction came at our own hands,

If we truly threw off the blinders of self-justification,

If we could see the brutalized bodies

The limbs strewn by our bombs

The flattened homes and the bleak, hopeless desolation ahead

For those who pick up the pieces and carry on…

If we could see the anguish that comes

From being pulled over too many times

And wondering if this traffic stop might be our last few minutes on earth…

If we could see our children’s graves brazenly bulldozed to make room for pipelines

If those of us living on the bright side of the myth of American Exceptionalism

Could see through the eyes of the dead buried on its underside

And the survivors who live with the pain…

If we could know on a cellular level the open wounds and scars they bear on their bodies

And the yearning they feel in their souls…


We would collapse to our knees

Or fall prostrate

Unable to stand.


The whole truth of white supremacy, American empire, power at the cost of destruction and death

That whole hideous truth…

If we who have wielded it

Or if we who are not conditioned daily

In the exercise of repelling it with our bodies and dreams

If we could feel it completely

It would crush us flat.


Evil blinds us slowly, gradually stealing our sight as our eyes try to adjust to the shadows of lies.

To see it in its fullness is to relinquish sight all together.


But there is a deeper truth.

A truth so dazzling in its brightness,

It can illumine the whole world.


And as much as we need that light to dispel the dark,

Our eyes aren’t ready yet.


Our eyes aren’t ready for the brilliance

Of Love in all its glory

Love in all its light.


For with that love comes the fullness of our humanity

The sudden expansion of our narrow selves over and against others

Into the fullness of the interdividuals we are made to be

Connected with the whole universe

Such love would burst us open

If it took us by surprise.


When our deepest darkness

Is juxtaposed against the light of Love

Threatening to black out our world,

That’s when the light shines brightest…

The Light of Love has never changed,

But our eyes see it most clearly

Against the shadows.


To look straight into God’s fierce Love for the whole world

Is to take in all that we have done to undermine that Love.

It is to look upon the reflections of God we have crucified

With our violence and our lies

From the beginning of time

Because all of God’s children

With all of their scars

Live forever in his light.


We cannot take it all in

Without the protective lens of mercy.


To look upon Love

And not wither in its radiance

Is to look through the lens of forgiveness.


But beware the false brands!

Cheap grace is no grace at all.

The forgiveness that excuses the worst within us

Without gradually opening us to change

Is no forgiveness at all.


The forgiveness that exonerates

Without penetrating to our hearts

Changing us from within

And emanating outward in our actions

Is just another instrument of darkness.


Don’t look at the light of God’s Love

With anything less than the real thing.

Don’t fall for knock-off brands.


As the shadows of hate gather,

Love shines ever brighter.


I look to the light

Through the sunglasses of mercy.

Image: NASA Eclipse 13 Nov. 2012. Available on Wikimedia via NASA. Public Domain.

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