Recently, I was talking to someone who has read a lot of this blog, particularly the pieces I wrote on herbal remedy scams. This person knew that these pieces (most of which are listed in the top left column of this blog, if you are curious) involved hundreds of hours of research and documentation and they asked me the simple question:
Why put so much effort into this? It wasn't my job, I didn't get paid and -apart from the people who commented or e-mailed to thank me (and some to challenge me)- I got no real recognition for this effort.
Funny, but "why" It isn't an easy question to answer. I could list plenty of things I didn't want out of this work: I didn't want payment. I didn't want thanks (although it is nice to receive), I didn't want recognition. I guess I wanted...
That's probably the best single word for it, but it still doesn't really explain it all, because justice for whom? And how does putting this stuff on the Internet achieve that aim?
Hmmm. I was at a rare loss for words.
I have been pondering these meaty issues a lot; -questioning my own motivations and the workings of my own mind, which are not always very obvious to me (and I pity my friends). After a day or two, this poem I learned in high school came meandering into my head. The first line did, anyway:
"Since the wise men have not spoken, I speak that am only a fool"
That's sort of it. I had to speak because nobody else could or would. I dug up the rest of the poem, to see if it fit, too. it is below. I think it is kinda-sorta-not-really suitable to my situation. At the time of writing, Pearse was in prison facing execution for his role as a leader of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, when the Irish equivalent of the Declaration of Independence was um... declared. Actually It was proclaimed. By Pádraig Pearse himself, if you don't mind. Not sure the difference, exactly but there you go. If he was still around, he could probably tell me. And correct my punctuation.
In this poem, Pearse is defending a lifetime spent as a campaigner and a rebel and his decision to lead a rising against the British. And here I am trying to justify a bit of research. Our situations aren't very comparable, really. Yet I can definitely identify with Pearse's idealism and willingness to speak out against perceived wrong.
By Pádraig Pearse
Since the wise men have not spoken, I speak that am only a fool;
A fool that hath loved his folly,
Yea, more than the wise men their books or their counting houses or their quiet homes,
Or their fame in men's mouths;
A fool that in all his days hath done never a prudent thing,
Never hath counted the cost, nor recked if another reaped
The fruit of his mighty sowing, content to scatter the seed;
A fool that is unrepentant, and that soon at the end of all
Shall laugh in his lonely heart as the ripe ears fall to the reaping-hooks
And the poor are filled that were empty,
Tho' he go hungry.
I have squandered the splendid years that the Lord God gave to my youth
In attempting impossible things, deeming them alone worth the toil.
Was it folly or grace? Not men shall judge me, but God.
I have squandered the splendid years:
Lord, if I had the years I would squander them over again,
Aye, fling them from me !
For this I have heard in my heart, that a man shall scatter, not hoard,
Shall do the deed of to-day, nor take thought of to-morrow's teen,
Shall not bargain or huxter with God ; or was it a jest of Christ's
And is this my sin before men, to have taken Him at His word?
The lawyers have sat in council, the men with the keen, long faces,
And said, `This man is a fool,' and others have said, `He blasphemeth;'
And the wise have pitied the fool that hath striven to give a life
In the world of time and space among the bulks of actual things,
To a dream that was dreamed in the heart, and that only the heart could hold.
O wise men, riddle me this: what if the dream come true?
What if the dream come true? and if millions unborn shall dwell
In the house that I shaped in my heart, the noble house of my thought?
Lord, I have staked my soul, I have staked the lives of my kin
On the truth of Thy dreadful word. Do not remember my failures,
But remember this my faith
And so I speak.
Yea, ere my hot youth pass, I speak to my people and say:
Ye shall be foolish as I; ye shall scatter, not save;
Ye shall venture your all, lest ye lose what is more than all;
Ye shall call for a miracle, taking Christ at His word.
And for this I will answer, O people, answer here and hereafter,
O people that I have loved, shall we not answer together?