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!...
Reading Wordsworth on my birthday morning I wondered – given that he was pissed off about the Industrial Revolution – what he’d make of our current cultural moment, when some young lovers reportedly check their cell phones during sex.
My romanticism shouldn’t be confused with nostalgia, which I think of as a poison (romance to me is more a sort of madness, often cured by a tumbledown progression into livable loving). So I didn’t find myself yearning to return to William W’s 1802.
Yet my b-day began with a wonderful gift from my loving wife – a new Electra cruiser bicycle to replace the one I rode to its demise a few years ago. And for me a bike is for the beach, which is where I go to be with the little in Nature that is ours.
The gift I’d gotten myself was Tracy K. Smith’s Life on Mars – more poems for a meditative morn. Poetry! It forces us to slow down, sends us back upon ourselves, Moebius strips our time and space into new, unquantifiable configurations. I cannot imagine interrupting a good poem’s read to check my e-mails.
I love and revere technology – could not live a day without it (and oh, those cheery Facebook birthday kisses!), yet: Picture the crowded restaurant with all the people at their festive dinner tables. Would you not avoid the modern-clichéd couples with their faces nailed to their devices, and focus on two humans alight with only the glow of each other’s eyes?
The world is tethered now to our wrists. Sometimes it takes a birthday (miracle: you’re alive!) to make me realize that the moments I treasure more and more are the ones in which I come unmoored from all the information and responsibility and can simply exist in one tiny swatch of that vast universe of worlds alone, answering to no one and nothing else.
What’s romantic, I’m supposing, is this particular exercise of freedom: a reveling in the willful choice to turn away from the too-much-with-us world, not for good, but for now.
(All images in this post - by Han Cheng Yeh, Chris Hieronimus, Greg Pths, Wilson Lee, Anastacie Frank, Paul Bailey, Danny McShane, and Richard Stewart James Gaston - come from the exquisite site Saut Dans Le Vide.)