It seems like institutions are bound to judge by outward things,
Or not to judge, as the case may be,
Though those who do not judge are short-lived,
Since the criteria for acceptance and full fellowship
Is the standard by which institutions are defined,
Just as a person is defined, to some extent,
By what they allow into their lives.
So, a nation, a church, a university, or club,
Must decide upon some measurable standard to which its members will adhere.
And the standard gives them something to shoot for,
A measuring stick by which they may try to figure out if they are good.
And many, especially the strong, through constant effort and sometimes prayer
Will rise above their baser natures to stand triumphant upon the pinnacle of their institution's standard.
These are the bright ones whose faces hang in halls of earthly glory.
And if the standard of the institution reflects, to some extent,
The reality of heavenly things,
(I say to some extent because no earthly standard
Can perfectly emulate the wisdom that resides on high.)
Then the heavens may also smile down upon the "winners" in the group.
And, when it goes just right, it is beautiful in its own imperfect way.
However, institutions and the outward standards they employ
To define themselves and their members
Have an ugly underbelly.
For one thing, they are fraught with the plague of the ambitious:
Those who have no interest in the spirit of the standard
Accept as a means to set themselves up
Upon lofty seats in the synagogue.
And without the help of God, It is nearly impossible to detect these wolves.
And even if detected, it is rare that they will let their seats be taken.
For this reason, institutions corrupt with age.
For the ambitious love to promote their friends
And before long, the leaders have gobbled up the food
That was intended for the children of the sect,
And rule in what they believe to be the house of God as self-made Gods of glory.
The other ugliness of institutions and their outward means of judging
Is the weak: those who are not strong enough, or smart enough, or ambitious enough
To rise from their baser natures, and claim their place in the gilded halls of earthly fame.
And without the help of God, the losers are no easier to judge than the winners.
Nobody knows whether another's failure is because they could not or would not.
God only knows.
And surely, the standard is not to blame. Where would we be without standards?
But for those who can forsake the glory of their institutions,
There is a better way to judge.
And those who judge by this last judgement know each other at a glance.
They are their own fraternity. They overlook the outward thing in favor of the real.
And in the end, they embody the best and most perfect spirit of the standard
To which institutions aspire, namely that of lifting another up,
Not through outward ceremony, but in respect and esteem.
"I love the man who tries," they say,
"And in my heart his face is hung with a thousand wreaths of glory!"
"I will be his friend," they say. "I will pretend that I'm no better than he."
"For who knows but what I am not."