The Long Defeat

J.R.R. Tolkien:1

Actually I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect 'history' to be anything but a 'long defeat' - though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.

Some time ago I snagged this quote from the blog of professor Richard Beck. Today, after learning the name Paul Farmer thru news of his death, the phrase "long defeat" resurfaced. The medical anthropologist was known for using it to describe the work he did with the poorest of the poor. Here he is in his own words:

I have fought the long defeat and brought other people on to fight the long defeat, and I’m not going to stop because we keep losing. Now I actually think sometimes we may win. I don’t dislike victory. . . . You know, people from our background — like you, like most PIH-ers, like me — we’re used to being on a victory team, and actually what we’re really trying to do in PIH is to make common cause with the losers. Those are two very different things. We want to be on the winning team, but at the risk of turning our backs on the losers, no, it’s not worth it. So you fight the long defeat.2

Poetics of Prayer @Izak