Wordsworth, Wonder, and the Modern World

William Wordsworth: The World Is Too Much with Us (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.

Where are you today, right now? What have been your thoughts, your actions, your cares? What are your lists? What are your duties? In what is your tiredness and worry?

Do you still wonder at this world? How well does your soul know the works of God? Or are you forlorn and do not know it?

For me, I have too often given my heart away getting and spending.

At times I, like Wordsworth, envy the ancients. To see Neptune in a stormy sea, or Thor behind every lightning bolt, or Hyperion in every course of the sun, is to see wonder and strangeness and mystery in the world. Fortunately, the God who is above and behind and beneath all those things, is more than sufficient for wonder and strangeness and mystery.

I must remember that no amount of modernity, no apparent successes of the Enlightenment Project, no prevailing skepticism or popular cynicism, no hurried and buried life can truly compete with the natural wonder of what is there and with the one in whom all is contingent.

When we set aside the stories of the ancients as mere myths (are they really only mere myths?) let us not set aside wonder. Do not let the wonder go to waste; for we are the creations of God, and so is all that is.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:14, ESV)

Wonderfully made. Full of wonder made.

* My thoughts for this post were sparked by Andrew Kern in a lecture he gave for the Circe Institute on Socratic Dialog, though he is not responsible for the ideas I present here, which may deviate from his intended meaning.
** The image at the top is of a grove near our home that was entirely removed for a bike path ‘improvement project.’ It was one of my favorite groves and I’m glad I got a picture of it before it disappeared. Click on it to enlarge, and then lose yourself just a little in the image.

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