What Is the Meaning of Success?

President Bush said it last night. General Petraeus said it earlier this week. Perhaps others are saying it too -- and I'm too impatient to read the article or listen to the rest of the audio broadcast. But, President Bush is convicted in his belief that we are showing signs of success in Iraq. We can't back out now, he insists from his own logic that I cannot seem to grasp. But, in his speech last night (which I can't bring myself to actually get through without screaming), President Bush announced that our success in Iraq may allow gradual troop cuts. This number is not clear. The actions that need to be taken are incredibly vague. And like many others, I'm frustrated.

In the week of the sixth anniversary of 9/11, I find myself once again eager to be in prayer and fellowship with others who share my hope for peace. Perhaps that is why this digs me most. This news comes this week -- when our nation mourns our wounds. This news comes this week as if to placate our fears. It just doesn't seem right. And I know that I am not alone.

I got an email from Jim Wallis today. At the very end of the email, he asked for prayer. He reminded his email audience of the power of prayer and that prayer can and will change our world. But, this was after he asked for money -- twice. He asked for donations in particular increments to support Sojourners work toward peace and justice. I deleted the email in annoyance. As much as I value the work that Sojourners does, the double request for money hit the same nerve that Bush seems to disregard human lives. Is it money that will solve this problem? Has money ever solved any problems in our world? Didn't our nation's greed send us to Iraq in the first place?

I admit that I'm ranting. I admit that I may be unfair to Jim Wallis and the hardworking people at Sojourners. But, I can't help but wonder what it means to have success. What is success in this particular conflict? Can anyone be bold enough to assert that success has been obtained? Perhaps I'm still grieving 9/11 or perhaps I'm still thinking about the funeral that I officiated at earlier this week. But, these words by Ralph Waldo Emerson come to mind:

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;

This is to have succeeded.

I wonder who is breathing easier on this day after President Bush and General Petraeus have annouced success. I wonder what part of the world is better. Where are the healthy children and blossoming gardens? Or where might we find a redeemed social condition? I cannot know. And this is why I join Sojourners and others in prayer. I pray with members of the United Church of Christ and I pray with friends who find the words for my prayer when I cannot. May it be so.


Audrey said...

thank you. nice post

LittleMary said...

thank you for your words and your indignation. praying too a lot these days, and what do you know? it helps!