Which is Right and Which is An Illusion? – Late Lament by the Moody Blues

A man takes a walk down the street. The frost lines the sidewalk, so that when he attempts to sidestep a stray cat that runs by he slips and falls on the icy pavement and lands in a pile of fresh snow. There, embedded in the piles of crystalline water, is a ten dollar bill — fate’s reconciliatory gift for his nasty fall. He pockets the cash and continues on his way. He rounds a corner, where he sees a homeless man, bundled in an assortment of ancient, browned, and smelly garments, stretching his arm outward with a tin can, begging for spare change to sustain his miserable existence. After some hesitation, the man reaches into his pocket and retrieves the twenty dollar bill. Sure, its a lot of money to give to a beggar, he thinks, but it’s good karma and I don’t need it anyways. He reaches out and drops the bill into the tattered tin can. “God bless you!” the beggar says as the man continues on his way.

This was a good deed, right? An act of charity that may have saved the life of someone in need, someone struggling to keep his head above the waters of death, which could ultimately take his life whenever people decide to stop giving without self-interest in mind.

Later that week, the man sinks into the reclining chair in his living room, fumbles with the remote, and turns on the TV. The news is covering a robbery. He sees footage of a shaggy figure walking into a liquor store, approaching the clerk, and pointing a gun at his head. After the clerk yields the contents of the cash register to his captor, the shaggy man leaves. As he makes his way out of the store, the man sitting at home in the comfort of his living room recognizes the pixelated image of the homeless man to whom he had donated his ten dollar bill to, just days before.

Is the man’s donation to the homeless beggar-gone-criminal still considered a “good deed”? Perhaps, the homeless man had used donations collected over time, just like his, to buy the gun that he used to rob the liquor store and the man’s ten dollar donation was therefore essential to the crime’s completion. Does this mean that the man could even be partially to blame for the crime? Or was it still a good deed, because his intentions were originally good, regardless of the outcome? The many ideas surrounding “right” and “wrong” are all simply products of human perception — a combination of available information, upbringing, and circumstance. Perceptions of what is right and what is wrong span across vast and diverse regions and are changing constantly over time. Can any single entity establish what is right and what is wrong? Or is it for the individual to decide? Everything that we see, hear, feel, and think is affected by our perceptions.


“Late Lament” is a poem written by the Moody Blues’ drummer, Graeme Edge, and is often featured at the end of the song “Nights in White Satin”, written by Justin Hayward. It is usually read aloud by keyboardist Mike Pinder, accompanied by orchestral instrumentals in the background.

The Moody Blues,  © 1970 by Nationaal Archief, Den Haag [CC BY 3.0]

The Poem:

Late Lament
Breathe deep the gathering gloom,
Watch lights fade from every room.
Bedsitter people look back and lament,
Another day’s useless energy spent.
Impassioned lovers wrestle as one,
Lonely man cries for love and has none.
New mother picks up and suckles her son,
Senior citizens wish they were young.
Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
Removes the colours from our sight.
Red is grey and yellow white.
But we decide which is right.
And which is an illusion?

 Perception is what makes it so hard to pinpoint what is right and what is wrong. Love to one person is lust to another and sin to yet another person. Perceptions change other time, as new knowledge becomes available, causing new ideas and opinions to form. Perception is such a fluid and elusive concept, and yet, it determines our laws and our social standings. “Bedsitter people look back and lament [at] another day’s useless energy spent” because they believe that they are enchained to a specific way of life, when really, no one is obliged to live their lives a certain way, at least, this is true when you look at it from a different perspective. The ability to consider multiple perspectives on politics, society, knowledge, philosophy, ways of life, and all other aspects of the universe is a gift. It opens up a range of impossible opportunities unique to the individual.

And yet, people who think different are condemned.

If it goes against the grain, it is wrong. But who made the grain in the first place? Who decided what was right and what was wrong? People did. If a person made the rules, isn’t any person’s opinion equally feasible as right or wrong? If “all men are created equal”, aren’t all of our thoughts, opinions, perceptions, and choices equal as well?

Every person sees the world through their own eyes, making it a different place to every individual. You have the right to determine for yourself “which is right” and to see something else and deem it “an illusion”. But so does everybody else. Every person’s perspective is worthy of being considered and respected. But every person’s perspective should be challenged and criticized as well. This is how we keep each other in check, so that egos are kept from swelling and the downtrodding of others is prevented. If we keep the universe in balance, we can all live in harmony, but we can all also be individuals.

But this is just my opinion. Why don’t you decide for yourself if it’s right, or simply an illusion.


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