Grace Notes – January 2017

My spiritual practice right now is to sing a hymn a day – I am going through the hymnal and singing them, one a day, in order, and then reflecting on it. Sometimes I’m caught up in the melody, or a memory, and sometimes I’m caught up in how much or little affection I feel for the hymn. And sometimes, it’s the lyrics that get me.

This morning’s hymn was number 85, Although this Life is But a Wraith. It sits in the Mystical and Meditation Songs section, but it’s really a fight song, a reminder that we have to keep getting up off the mat, to always be open, to revel in that which brings us joy but not forget that there is work to be done so that all may feel joy.

The lyrics, by Louis Untermeyer, are as follows:

Although this life is but a wraith,
although we know not what we use,
although we grope with little faith,
give me the heart to fight and lose.

Open my ears to music,
let me thrill with spring’s first flutes and drums —
but never let me dare forget
the bitter ballads of the slums.

Ever insurgent let me be,
make me more daring than devout;
from sleek contentment keep me free,
and fill me with a buoyant doubt.

From compromise and things half-done,
keep me, with stern and stubborn pride;
and when, at last, the fight is won,
O, keep me still unsatisfied.

As I sang it, I realized that this is exactly the right song for our times. It’s not a quiet, contemplative prayer. Rather, it is a reminder to our souls to answer faith’s call to action. And more, it’s a reminder that the work may actually never really be done:  “when at last the fight is won, O keep me still unsatisfied.”

In other words, stay woke.

I know that for many of you, your days on the front lines are long past – you’re not going on marches or standing in protest on the steps of legislatures. But there are so many things we can do – send much needed money, write letters to legislators, make calls, recycle, speak up, and support those who can put their boots on the ground – sending them on their way and caring for them when they return. This is how we all can stay woke, how we all keep fighting, how we can all resist.





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