On the Promise of Men

The Last Debate

"The Creation of Adam" by Michelangelo (Source)

“The Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo (Source)

In the vast and expansive universe of creation, infinite beyond the capacities of the human mind, intricate in manners unimaginable at even the limits of human creativity, what is the relevance of man? In the great arcs of time and age, what relevance does the mere cosmic seconds of human existence possess? As the Psalmist so aptly declares, “When I see the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you set in place – what is man that you are mindful of him, and a son of man that you care for him?” Is there some potential, some promise of men and women, that offers some exponential influence to the happenings of humans?

As Faramir can so well express, men “are a failing people, a springless autumn.” Our lives are short, and even though we attempt to lengthen them with health and medicine, nevertheless so little they seem to accomplish or matter. What we seek to create – our ideals, our visions, our dreams – seem little to come to realization, while what we produce does not last the storms of hardships or the eroding tides of time. Chesterton wisely reports that “children are innocent and love justice, while most of us are wicked and naturally prefer mercy.” So expresses our personal adolescence yet also the youth of our society: we set out with great expectations and great demands for ourselves, only to lessen our sights and our standards in the realization of our own shortcomings.

There is something strangely paradoxical about the nature of man, as Legolas suggests:

“‘If Gondor has such men still in these days of fading, great must have been its glory in the days of its rising.’
‘And doubtless the good stone-work is the older and was wrought in the first building,’ said Gimli. ‘It is ever so with the things that Men begin: there is a frost in Spring, or a blight in Summer, and they fail of their promise.’
‘Yet seldom do they fail of their seed,’ said Legolas. ‘And that will lie in the dust and rot to spring up again in times and places unlooked-for. The deeds of Men will outlast us, Gimli.’”

A striving for far-off glory; a faltering in its unfolding; an unlooked for hope of renewal: these are the threads that weave the garment that clothes the promise of men.

We men and women may not consider ourselves of particular wisdom, courage, or wisdom, and yet we when pressed can still find forged within us the foundations of strength set down by our families, our forefathers, our teachers, our past selves. Often we experience hardships, obstacles, and barriers; often we find ourselves with setbacks, with retreats, with failing promises. Yet still there is some inexhaustible perseverance and grit within mankind, a light that endures the gloom of shadows and the rot of corruption: the flame that burns for goodness even in the darkness of a death camp, or the kindles up hope even in the midst of anarchy and collapse. There is something sparked within we mortal beings that, even when faced when the gates of hell itself, says like Gandalf: “I do not counsel prudence.”

And so the promise of men. The marvels of the universe are mighty; the expanses of time are vast. The lives of women and men are small in comparison. Yet, there is something within the essence of women and men that burns long and burns bright, that endures space and endures time. The promise of men is their undiminished potential for greatness and goodness – a potential that, while often falters, nevertheless outlasts all other contributions.


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