Monday, June 21, 2010
Monday Musings... The Romantics
This morning I was up and out early, by 8:00, to do some mowing before the blistering 90+ degree North Carolina heat and humidity set in. Sometimes when I mow or garden or stack wood, I don't focus on anything except the job at hand. But sometimes I reflect on my life or the state of things in the world. Today I thought about The Romantics, a 19th century group of writers. The Romantics are my favorite group of writers for a variety of reasons, not the least being their connection with the natural world and the common folk. When I did my student teaching at a high school back in the early 1990s, this was the group of writers with whom I chose to begin, and my students loved that we went outside for class, under the trees, to read and discuss these writers and poets from 200 years ago. I guarantee they remember those classes still. It is the group of writers I always come back to when I need to get my bearings straight.
I suppose I thought of them because of a discussion on Friday night while we were visiting with our son. My son is a photographer and he often photographs furniture for companies and for the International Furniture Market held in nearby High Point every spring and fall. On Friday night he showed us the latest furniture brochure, the photos of which were his work. I was proud! Then he showed us a chair, a simple design with a woven wicker seat, comfortable too. The price tag? $15,000. I was aghast... "What? This isn't even curly maple, or rosewood, or walnut or anything special!" I cried. "It's pine!", I said, which was verified by my husband who knows his wood quite well, being a knifemaker who uses wood in the handles. My son said simply, "It's the designer." Good Lord... who can command that kind of money for such a simple thing that you plop your butt on for a short period of time? It's insane, in my mind. Just think what $15,000 could do if spent in other ways... say, for instance, to feed the homeless at a local shelter? Or to get a free medical clinic up and running?
When I came inside from mowing, out came my Brit Lit book and I opened to this poem, a favorite of mine... one that I was first introduced to as a teenager in British Literature class in my senior year of high school.
The World is Too Much with Us
William Wordsworth, 1807
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
Those lines... "we have given our hearts away" and "we are out of tune" get me every time. They are so blaringly honest and true. They were true in the 1800s and they are true in 2010. What owns our hearts, really? For some, this may not be a pleasant question to answer. And in what ways are we out of tune and what are the consequences? Being out of tune in diet and exercise because we need fast and quick and cheap to enable our sedentary lifestyles affects our health, requiring larger medical costs and drugs; being out of tune with one another affects our relationships locally and internationally, resulting in so many poor people in our country and in other countries and in young women toiling in sweatshops across the globe so that others can have cheaper products; being out of tune with nature and the natural course of things affects our water, our forests, our oceans, our air, and wildlife.
I've never understood people who need to buy big and buy often. Why must we have big houses and expensive toys? Why do people go into debt, huge amounts of debt, just to have stuff? Why do we put more importance on money than on the people around us, on the forest regions, on health and well-being and peace, for ourselves as individuals and for the world? Why do people work so hard at money-making only to forget their surroundings, to lose contact with the natural world on a daily basis, to forget about their fellow man? I saw this attitude quite often in the college students I taught a few years ago. And of course, that attitude is definitely present in the business world too... shall we say we see it in big oil, down there in the Gulf? And we see it in ourselves... in the desire for cheaper gas at any cost so we can drive hither and yon, unfettered and free, on the smallest whim... not giving thought to the ultimate consequences of our gas consumption.
If you aren't familiar with these 19th century writers, give them a whirl... go check out a book from your library. Fix yourself a little drink, sit under a shade tree or among some flowers, breathe in the summer air, clear your mind, and meditate on the words of these wonderful poets who figured out what life was all about.
Tulip Gatherer by arlenefaye on Etsy