Last evening a city man
Was talking in the hotel door
To everyone, including me.
He talked of justice, of the struggle to obtain
Justice, of the workers
Suffering: of unending work
Of hungry men, of rich men turning
Their backs to it all.
Then, looking at me, he saw me with tears
In my eyes. He smiled, happy,
Thinking I felt the same hatred he felt
And the compassion
He claimed to feel.
(But I was hardly listening to him.
What do I care about people
And what they suffer, or suppose they suffer?
Let them be like me - they will not suffer.
All the ill in the world comes from people interfering
With one another:
Wanting to do good, wanting to do evil.
Our soul, heaven and earth, these are enough:
To want more is to lose these and be wretched.)
What I was thinking when this friend of man
Spoke (and this moved me to weep)
Was that the far murmur of cowbells
In the evening air
Was nothing like small chapel bells
Where flowers and brooks might have heard Mass
Along with simple souls
Simple as mine.
(Praise be to God I am not good and have
The natural selfishness of flowers
And rivers, going on their way
Concerned only, and not knowing it,
To flower and go.
This is the only mission in the world:
This - to exist clearly
And to know how
Without thinking about it.)
The man fell silent,
He viewed the setting sun.
But what have sunsets to do
With haters and lovers?
~ Thomas Merton
from the Portuguese of Fernando Pessoa
#8, of twelve poems from The Keeper of Flocks