Category Archives: Enlightenment

Wordsworth’s “Preludes” and Subjectivity

Just after the turn of the century, I had the privilege of living in Cambridge, England for an academic year with my wife who was doing research at Lucy Cavendish College at Cambridge University.  One of my personal highlights was attending a wine tasting at the Cambridge University office of William Wordsworth.  There I was in awe as I soaked up the atmosphere of the room where this great poet had studied and written, my “awe” certainly enhanced by very the very fine wine!  I was taken by handwritten copies of some of his poetry displayed on the walls and original editions of his work on display.  I reveled for a while in the “spirit” of one of my most beloved poets.

This past week the New York Review of Books had a lengthy report of a new book about one of Wordsworth’s most famous lyrical poems, “The Preludes.”  This book review by Helen Vendler delves into some of the personal misfortunates that befell Wordsworth in life, especially in his youth, all of which turned him inward and eventually gave expression to beautiful poetic imagery of a soul that had been denied the comfort of traditional life.  It reminds me of something W. H. Auden said of W.B. Yeats, “Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.”  Wordsworth’s world was often very maddening and it did turn him away from the horror of what he was witnessing toward the subjective comfort of poetic reverie.

I will post a link to the entire book review at the conclusion.  Here I would like to share an excerpt from the preludes which has been offering me reassurance for the past 30 years or so, reassuring me that he too saw as did Shakespeare, “There is a Divinity that doeth shape our ends, rough hew them how we may”:

Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
Like harmony in music; there is a dark
Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
Discordant elements, makes them cling together
In one society. How strange, that all
The terrors, pains, and early miseries,
Regrets, vexations, lassitudes interfused
Within my mind, should e’er have borne a part,
And that a needful part, in making up
The calm existence that is mine when I
Am worthy of myself! Praise to the end!

Book review by Helen Vendler of Wordsworth’s “Preludes”:  http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/02/23/wordsworth-heard-voices-in-my-head/

**************************************************************

ADDENDUM–I have diversified this literary effort of mine.  In this blog I plan to focus more on poetry and prose.  Below you will see two other blogs of mine relevant to spirituality and politics which have lain dormant for most of the past five years.  I hope some of you will check them out.  However, the boundaries will not be clear as my focus is very broad and my view of life is very eclectic/inclusive/broad-based.  Yes, at times too much so!

https://wordpress.com/posts/anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com

https://wordpress.com/posts/theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

Sleep Walking in the Spiritual World

An “awakening” is an interesting notion as it implies having been asleep before.  And it brings to mind the notion someone posited that we are a “nation of sleep walkers” in reference to not apparently having any idea what we are doing.  And the notion that one is not “awake” is disconcerting to say the least.  It can threaten one to the core and technically should do so as the “core” is where the “stuff” of life is found.  There we find the heart.

Spiritual traditions usually have awakening as a primary concern for spiritual teachers who help formulate these traditions always “see through” the falsities of life and want to bring them to the attention of others.  And this was certainly so with my spiritual tradition, Christianity.  But the spiritual truth that Jesus offered to the world was wisdom from the depths of the heart and this wisdom cannot be put into words.  Jesus, of course, used words but knew these words would only rattle around in many heads and never make it into the depths of the heart where meaning could be experienced.  This is what he meant by “having ears to hear, but hear not” and “eyes to see, but seeing not.”  For He knew that the real “stuff” of life takes place deep in the bowels of the heart and words can furrow there but only when great resistance is overcome.

This issue is very relevant to my spiritual history.  I was “Christianized” from early on.  I imbibed the “stuff” from even before I was conscious and one might say that since then everyday was summarized by, “Wind me up and watch me be Christian.”  And, yes, I grew up and got an education and dared to become a “damn liberal” and then it became, “Wind me up and watch me be a liberal Christian.”  Same song, different verse.  Only in the past decade or so have I realized just how I was embedded in my own thought, including in my own Christian teachings, and was largely just an indoctrinated automaton.

So, what is the solution?  Atheism?  Agnosticism?  Self-indulgence?  All of the above?  Well, I don’t know if I have a “solution” but I do know that I have been granted awareness of my self-serving faith, I have been made aware that ego-gratification was one of its primary intents.  And with this awareness, or “awakening,” I have suffered the disillusionment that I think is necessary at some point in life.  But this descent into the darkness has taught me that there is some inner resource I have other than the ego and its trappings.  I am finding a Center that is solid which words and spiritual traditions can only point to.  Yes, I still think of that “Center” as God, or even the “Christ child” that is within us all but I’m aware that these are only words.  I only know that in the depths of my heart I am a mystery, and that the whole of my life is a mystery, and that I’m living for a while longer in a beautiful world that is full of mystery, part of which are you!

So often I conclude with the observation, “But I have no need to convince anyone or to convert anyone.”  In my spiritual tradition, the spiritual passion has always led to an urgent need to evangelize and hope that others will “join the team.”  Not so in the least now, and that is one indicator that I’m growing up.  Changing others is no longer my job.  Changing my own life is the issue and gawd is there work to do there!  And I firmly believe that as I focus on “working on my own salvation with fear and trembling” any impact on others that needs to take place will occur.