I remember reading this Wordsworth poem junior or senior year of high school, with Eben sitting behind me... and feeling its potency then.
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.
Today, this week, month, year, several years?? there are moments when I feel a bit overwhelmed. By the amount of books I want to read. By the number of movies I feel it is imperative to the continuing development of my soul that I see. By the quantity of news that I feel it is my responsibility as a privileged member of a media-laden society to process... By the phone calls I would like to make to stay in touch. By the disconnect between the number of ideas I have and the number of them I have brought to fruition. By my love for people. By my anger at people. By my compassion for people who are suffering, those I know and those I don't know. The list goes on and on.
Last night I went to a fun reunion-of-sorts party which had the unusual distinction of including speeches. Maybe because the party was celebrating my friend Sam's brief return to NYC from Obama-land... and he has been so close to such a great orator for a bit, and maybe because of how monumental this week was, and because many of us at the party went to a high school where declamation was not just revered but PRACTICED... we were all game. A college friend got us warmed up with a more conventional toast, and then Sam took the step ladder and went on for a bit. He told stories from the trail, stories we will probably learn in the coming weeks (about for example, Barack's first night in NYC as a transfer student at Columbia, when he slept under the stars in an alley on 109th Street), and he talked about how much the people that are his support team have meant to him these past two years especially. He grew up in a neighborhood in Boston called Jamaica Plain and many of his childhood friends were there to raise their glasses last night. He talked about his girlfriend Sasha and how much of a rock she has been, and how having her there to listen to him gripe, or share in his glee, or just shoot the proverbial shit with has gotten him through more than anything. I was really happy for him. I am really happy for him. He is the kind of sensitive, thoughtful, complex-minded individual you might assume would favor a career in the arts or education over politics.
And you know the most amazing thing-- instead of going to Washington, where he could surely get a cushy job in the administration-- he is choosing to keep doing what he has been doing. Finding people who have never participated in politics ever before maybe, talking to them, getting them excited, and sharing their stories... He is choosing to stay with the movement, and effect change from the outside in-- rather than play the conformity game with the bureaucrats in Washington. And the really exciting thing to me-- the macro-level reality is-- when this Obama-thing started two, or four, or arguably more, years ago-- it must have seemed like a near-impossibility. The people involved must have felt pretty overwhelmed by the amount of change him being elected President would effect. The paradigm-shifts. The mind-opening...
Ahhh... but we did it. Here we are. It wasn't easy. Change is not easy (Sam kept saying that last night, I guess it is something Barack says pretty often...). As Sam put it, "It's fucking hard. But it's worth it. It's so exciting."
What would I prefer-- to NOT be overwhelmed??