Thursday, December 17, 2009

The World is Too Much with Us?

I've always wondered about these words of Wordsworth.  How is the world "too much" with us?  Is it too much with us?  Or, too much with us?  And, "too much" implies the existence of some sort of standard by which "with us" or "with us" can be measured.  What is it?

Reading the poem, of course, gives one the impression that he is very simply and plainly complaining about us--we humans.  We get and spend, and lay waste our powers, whatever that may mean.  We see little in nature, or little in nature which is ours (nature is ours?  Or, there is little we see that is ours, in nature?)  And what's that about the sea baring her bosom to the moon?  Was it simply needed to rhyme, so sublimely, with "boon"?

That aside, he seems to be complaining about what we do to, or with, the world.  Imagine what he would write now, poor fellow.

I think there has always been in us a tendency to consider nature as something apart from humans.  Sometimes, the tendency is to romaticize nature, as something better than humans, or at least better without humans.  Sometimes, the tendency results in philosophers concluding that we cannot really know if there is an external world, or, if there is one, whether we can ever really know what it is like.  Sometimes, it results in the view that nature or the world, as something distinct from us, is something we can do with as we please.  In each case, I think, this tendency deludes us.

I tend to think, as I believe Dewey did, that we are not separate, at least not in any significant sense.  We're all there, with everything else; we're part and parcel, as it were, of "ordinary day to day life", interacting with other humans and creatures and things.  Nature, or the world, or the universe, includes humans.

One would think it a rather elementary inference from this that it is in our interest to act accordingly. i.e. to ascertain and anticipate how we interact with everything else, determine the results of that interaction, and analyze the benefits and costs of certain kinds of interaction, ultimately selecting those which result in benefits.  I don't think we can do so, intelligently, when viewing nature as an idyllic paradise we soil, or something distinct from us we cannot really know, or something which is ours to do with as we please.


  1. If you read my response to your comment in CFI I think you will understand it when I say that I agree with you that mankind sees itself as a separate concept from nature and I would, as I did in CFI, state that, in my view,when early mankind moved from expressing pain to projecting it, it effectively moved it's thinking from being an intregal part of nature to being in control of nature, or at least attempting to do so.

    I described to my children as they grew of this simple explanation for this phenomenain very brief précis form.

    In the growing brains of developing humans, faced with overwhelming and (to that point) unexplainable natural catastrophe began to believe that some outside body was enacting this unbearable pain upon them. Simply put, gods were invented.Now begins a need for sacrifice and appeasement. As human brains became more complex this 'relationship' became entwined with many other human desires (e.g.power/control).

    What is needed to correct this neuroses is for us to actually FEEL the fears and pains that we encounter.At this juncture in human devolution, an unlikley goal to achieve.Nature will eventually remind us of what is real and what is not.

  2. The line about the sea baring her bosom to the moon is not just a matter of casting about for a rhyme. Wordsworth is referring, in what seems to me a charmingly anthropomorphic way, to the gravitational pull of the moon, and the oceanic tides that result.