As a young man, I ran a ministry called Kingdomworks, which recruited Christian college students to spend their summers in inner-city churches, organizing day-camps for children. Since becoming a humanist, I’ve heard from many of my former volunteers. Some are confused or disappointed by my transition, but others are thrilled that I’ve not only joined them on the other side of faith, but also have begun to communicate a new – to us at least – way of joyfully living for love and justice.
Yesterday I received a beautiful note from one of them, who said she’d found a poem that reminded her of my Christianity. Given who reads this blog, I reckon it may speak for some of you too.
Failing and Flying
by Jack Gilbert
Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It’s the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.