When “The World is Too Much With Us”
February 19, 2015 § 2 Comments
“The world is too much with us,” wrote William Wordsworth.
Lovely as it is, the world is too much with me these days. A pilot splashed with fuel and burned in a cage. The blood of twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christians turning the water red in Libya. Villages in Nigeria decimated by Boko Haram, schoolgirls captured and sold off to Islamic warlords, cartoonists slaughtered because they’ve given offense, trains derailed, people just trying to get home killed. A friend of a friend who recently experienced a sudden headache before dropping dead. The marriage of a couple teetering. Children rejecting parents’ values. Siblings who don’t speak.
Sometimes it gets to be too much and I want to escape thoughts of children trafficked, people fleeing violence, in refugee camps, needing hospice, grieving, on life support, homeless.
Then I ease into other ordered worlds, grand elaborations and plots where justice is always meted out, where the bad guys don’t escape the relentless pursuit of retribution, and the good, but flawed, win.
Yes, I read.
My daydreams of choice are memoirs and mysteries, police procedurals, detective sagas, international spy stories. They appeal to my sense of fairness, justice, of wanting the story to end not with a sweet, predictable ending, but with a ringer thrown in, a surprise that satisfies. With justice.
But when the world is too much with me, reading about death is less palatable, and leaves a bad taste. I turned back to an old friend who doesn’t know me at all, Jan Karon, and her new book, Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good. The title settled it, and I settled in for a cozy, world-escaping read. I didn’t expect to be undone by the daily lives of the Mitford characters.
I read of Father Tim standing before his former congregation to relate the confession of their disgraced priest who was resigning. Then I came to this passage.
“He felt the tears on his face before he knew he was weeping, and realized instinctively that he would have no control over the display. He could not effectively carry on, nor even turn his face away or flee the pulpit. He was in the grip of a wild grief that paralyzed everything but itself.
“He wept face forward, then, into the gale of those aghast at what was happening, wept for the wounds of any clergy gone out into a darkness of self-loathing and beguilement; for the loss and sorrow those who could not believe, or who had once believed but lost all sense of shield and buckler and any notion of God’s radical tenderness, for the ceaseless besetting of the flesh, for the worthless idols of his own and of others; for those sidetracked, stumped, frozen, flung away, for those both false and true, the just and the unjust, the quick and the dead.
“He wept for himself, for the pain of the long years and the exquisite satisfactions of the faith, for the holiness of the mundane, for the thrashing exhaustions and the endless dyings and resurrecting that malign the soul incarnate.”
As Father Tim wept, I wept, tears running down my face for those “sidetracked, stumped, frozen, flung away, for those both false and true, the just and the unjust, the quick and the dead.” My own list. My own sorrows, and the world’s.
When the world is too much with us I can’t do much about it. But I can “weep with those who weep,” as the Bible says. And I can pray to the One who is the ultimate Somebody Good and with whom we are always safe.
copyright 2015 Inger Logelin