Jan 19 2009

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Passing Judgment

Posted at 9:09 am under Blog Post

I got out of bed yesterday, dressed in thermals and wools, then stepped out the door while it was still dark.  I woke up in a bad mood for some reason – maybe I had been pondering the human condition in my sleep.  All I know is that I felt a powerful urge to go for a long walk and air out my stinky thoughts.  Since my wife and dog were visiting a friend for the weekend, there was nothing to prevent me from breaking the morning routine.  So out the door I went.

At first I kept to the sidewalk, but snowdrifts made walking there difficult so I moved to the street.  On a wintry Sunday morning before daybreak, it didn’t matter.  A car cruised by every once in a while, but I had the street to all myself for the most part.  I imagined trying to explain to some policeman why I was prowling the town.  But that was only my stinky thoughts creeping to the forefront of my consciousness, so I let it go.

I listened the other day as our outgoing president made his last speech, justifying eight years of ineptitude and that, I think, is what put me over the edge.  He passed judgment on himself as a way of setting the record straight, before anyone else could do so.  He passed judgment on everyone and everything in sight, seizing the moral high ground.  Or so he thought.  But history will not be kind to him.  I’m sure of that.

We all do it.  Passing judgment is as common as passing gas.  It’s an integral part of being human.  But there are times when it seems to me like the root of all evil.  I recently read several books about the Eastern Front in World War Two and was appalled by what the Nazis and Soviets did to each other there, along with anyone else in the way.  Tens of millions of people died, combatants and non-combatants alike, as each side pursued its morally righteous agenda by sheer force.  80% of the war was fought on that front and none of it was pretty.  To what end?  Misery, cruelty, death, destruction, and ultimately back to square one:  the Cold War, taking sides again, us and them.  And so on and so on . . .

Where does it all end?  According to those passing judgment, it never does – not until heaven on earth has been firmly established.  All we have to do is stand tall against the bad guys and good will prevail, right?  This is precisely what our departing president believes and why the world is such a mess.  I pray that the incoming president has more sense, but there’s a stink in the air as the victors of the last election celebrate.  Is that the smell of moral righteousness?  It smells to me like something dead.

As I finished my frigid walk, I flushed a murder of crows from a long row of conifers lining a side street.  They whirled about the bleached landscape in predawn light, cawing with unusual menace before settling into a few naked maples.  I was cold, achy, sweaty but feeling much better than I’d felt an hour earlier.  Walking is like that. I was tempted to read something into the sudden presence of so many carrion-eaters, but quickly jettisoned the thought.  “Give it a break,” I mumbled, reminding myself how easy it is to pass judgment and how little good comes from it.   Then I went home to a hot cup of coffee and breakfast.  And the day began in snowy stillness and beauty despite the endless gray sky overhead.

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