A house divided soon Falls
From fair-weathered friends
A summer fallowing
Hommés united spring eternal
From perennial buds
After a parent winter
The eternal seasoning
A savor for all
This short poem is about hope, friendship, and collective action. I must give props to M.K. Gandhi who said something with a similar sentiment: “When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it — always.”
Hope is a common theme in my writings. Partly because the world so commonly seems in so desperate need of hope. Partly because I find the nature of hope intriguing, elusive and indefatigable! After all, I literally graduated from Hope College! Of course, it was with a B.S., so you may want to take what I say with a grain of salt. Though, personally, I’d prefer that you’d take it with innumerable grains of salt, as in Gandhi’s Salt Campaign for independence from British rule:
Led by Mohandas K. Gandhi, the Congress’s Working Committee decided to target the 1882 British Salt Act that gave the British a monopoly on the collection and manufacture of salt and allowed them to levy a salt tax. Although he faced initial ambivalence and opposition to the idea of targeting the Salt Laws, Gandhi asserted that salt would help unite Indians of all religious communities, castes, and regions for salt represented a basic and crucial dietary need that the British colonial government monopolized for its own benefit. By encouraging all Indians to defy the Salt Laws by manufacturing and selling salt themselves, Gandhi argued, Indians could collectively challenge the authority of the Raj.
At the time of the Indian Salt campaign (1930-31), the United States was in the Great Depression, as a result of reckless financial speculation, another great trickle down from the money changers of the world. Some things never change. The more recent Occupy Wall Street movement recognized that the 99% vastly outnumber the 1% and that direct democracy, empowering the masses to take control of their lives without relying on the profiteering inter-mediators of the 1%. Many mourn the rising and falling tides of social movements, but the currents favoring truth hold sway forever. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.”
The “house divided” reference is both to Mark 3:25: “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand,” and the famous speech by Abraham Lincoln during his presidential re-election campaign amidst the Civil War (NOTE: “civil war” is perhaps one of the greatest oxymorons ever). The most famous passage of the speech is:
A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.
As described in Wikipedia, the people’s encyclopedia, Lincoln used this speech to frame the epic moral and political question of the day:
“Lincoln’s goals with this speech were, firstly, to differentiate himself from Douglas, the incumbent; and secondly, to publicly voice a prophecy for the future. Douglas had long advocated popular sovereignty, under which the settlers in each new territory decided their own status as a slave or free state; he had repeatedly asserted that the proper application of popular sovereignty would end slavery-induced conflict, and would allow northern and southern states to resume their peaceful coexistence. Lincoln, however, responded that the Dred Scott decision had closed the door on Douglas’s preferred option and left the Union with only two remaining outcomes: the United States would inevitably become either all slave, or all free. Now that the North and the South had come to hold distinct opinions in the question of slavery, and now that this issue had come to permeate every other political question, the time would soon come when the Union would no longer be able to function.”
This poem attempts to capture some of the flavor — the eternal seasoning — of this perennial cycling and recycling of the work for justice throughout our lives and across generations. Savor the high tides, but be not discouraged when the tectonic shifts of social change seem imperceptible. Winter always passes, and hope springs eternal. And if you still have a headache from all of this, just mix two metaphors, ingest gently, and call me in the mourning.