“The world is too much with us,” wrote English Romantic poet William Wordsworth in the 1800s. Although his sonnet is in response to the materialism and neglect of nature that characterized the First Industrial Revolution, that line has repeatedly come to mind in recent days.
The events of Charlottesville, like the 2016 slaughter in a nightclub in Orlando, provide an ugly mirror for the depravity of the human heart. The overt hatred for fellow human beings is only surpassed by the yawning silence of some politicians to clearly condemn such acts – or to condemn those who fail to condemn them. Worse, some religious leaders use scripture to justify their excuses or their calls for violence to meet violence. As my son-in-law, Chris Cox, blogged in response to a Christian leader who called for the use of the nuclear bomb, “I don’t recognize your Jesus.” http://www.wilcomoore.com/blog/2017/8/11/i-dont-recognize-your-jesus
My reaction to the tepid response to hate-driven violence is stronger than my horror at the acts themselves. It’s easier to attribute atrocity to the power of unabated evil in the world; I find it much more difficult to see silence in the face of such evil. I sin in my judgment of the excusers and the silent, and the sickening cycle continues.
Recently, my city has seen reports of a series of brutal incidents of sexual abuse of a child at the hands of older boys. As if that travesty isn’t enough, the allegations outlined in a public lawsuit report abysmal response by institutions that were responsible to protect, report, and confront. In the language of Charlottesville, supposedly some mighty fine people perhaps made a mistake when they didn’t have all the information.
I am more outraged at the inadequate and hurtful response to the rape of a child than I am by the clearly disturbed children who committed it. I sin in my judgment of the adults, and the sickening cycle continues.
The “big T” traumas of events like recent ones only exacerbate the “little T” traumas that affect us all. My life feels full of pain during this season. It’s nothing like the death of a loved one because she was protesting Neo-Nazi hate or because he was gay or in the presence of people who are. But these days I still feel deep (and some days debilitating) emotional and spiritual pain. The world is too much with us.
I feel paralyzed and exhausted by it all. I certainly can’t influence hate-mongers or political leaders or religious zealots. I can’t fix the broken hearts of the betrayed partners who come to Bethesda Workshops, and I can’t alleviate the shame of the sex addicts who caused it. I can’t arrest the inevitable progression of a dreadful disease that stalks someone I love. I can’t even have a healthy discourse with dear ones whom I have unintentionally hurt.
I, too, am part of the problem, of course. With alarming regularity, I am incapable of leading a ministry without significant missteps. I am afraid of failure and more afraid of what people will think about that imperfection, which tempts me to showcase my false self. Despite years and thousands of dollars invested in healing, I am sometimes still engulfed by woundedness, especially around abandonment, and I revert to impaired ways of coping. Professionally and personally, I feel the world is too much with us.
Most days, I’m a hot mess.
I doubt this statement is encouraging, but I have no idea what to do about these issues – at least, nothing beyond all the tools I’ve learned as a recovering person and a clinician. I use them to the best of my ability in the moment, and too often, that is not enough.
Today, though, I know what I can do – actually, what I get to do, as a friend reminds me. With a nod to the wonderful Anne Lamont, simple choices are easily available. I can be touched by the morning moon that was waiting for me in the early dawn and see it as God’s affirmation and concern for this painful world. I can watch the hummingbirds at the feeder and feel encouraged that these enchanting creatures beat their wings 50-200 flaps per second and their hearts 1,200 beats per minute. I can get perspective on my exhaustion when I remember some hummingbirds can fly 500 miles nonstop during migration. I can pick up the trash tossed into the bushes of my elderly neighbor and stop judging the owner who let his or her (big!) dog crap in my yard. Much harder, I can stop judging those whose actions I deplore and pray for them, instead. May a merciful God help us all!
I can exercise trust by reminding myself that today I can focus on today’s happenings and surrender tomorrow to God. I can watch for someone who needs an encouraging smile or the two dollars I keep in my car’s console for the person asking for help on the street. I can put one foot in front of the other, work and rest and laugh and hope and thank God for this day when it is done.
These tiny acts of surrender and trust won’t change the degraded world or even my corner in it. And maybe, just maybe, they will change me. Perhaps that’s the start of worldwide transformation.
Marnie C. Ferree