December 1, 2010


In his poem, “To a Poet a Thousand Years Hence,” James Elroy Flecker expresses his curiosity about life after he is gone:

                               …have you wine and music still,

                              And statues and a bright eyed-love,

                              And foolish thoughts of good and ill

His question is poignant not only because he is contemplating death, but also because he reveals a generosity of spirit toward the world yet to come. Let there be joy and love and art, he muses.

It’s natural to wonder how life will evolve once we’ve been “asked to leave the party” (Blog: 11/11/10). Curiosity is at the heart of human nature. But Flecker’s question reveals a nobler trait too: the spirit of altruism. We humans are capable of thinking beyond ourselves. We can hope for the future of the unborn. That altruism exists in all of us — in our soldiers, in hospice volunteers, in the scientists and researchers who help us to understand our world and even in the politicians who work to improve the human condition. Certainly, we see it in the sacrifices a parent makes for his child.

We may not agree on the means to a better world. We may argue about climate change or how to ensure world peace or how to be a just nation. But today, let us not debate the means. Let us pause to honor the altruism behind those aims. When we understand the noble intent we may come to treat our opponents with greater patience. 

Our passions may die with us but not the hope we hold for the future. Hope defines us and gives meaning to our existence. We go to our graves believing a seed buried in winter will sprout green shoots in the spring.