A Bonhoeffer Poem for Tiger Woods

It’s been a few days since the Tiger Woods’ car accident and it’s safe to […]

Todd Brewer / 12.3.09

It’s been a few days since the Tiger Woods’ car accident and it’s safe to say that Woods is just like the rest of us–a tangled web of self-contradiction and deceit. In light of this, I thought the following poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer to be especially appropriate. Identity is illusory; it changes like the weather. Like Woods, we desperately try to cultivate an image of ourselves. We conform our fashion, cars, books, music, and anything we can get our hands on to earn the praise of others. Yet in the blink of an eye (or a misplaced tree) we are exposed.

Who am I?

Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equally, smilingly, proudly,
Like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were
compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectation of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, 0 God, I am Thine!