A Discontented Sojourner: Now Free

This week I have encountered plenty in the national and international news cycles that put a cloud over my head. Perhaps most of us are often made aware of Syria ongoing, but how often are we reminded of Ukraine? Yemen? Myanmar? How many other things are simply overlooked? It sometimes feels overwhelming to care about all of these on top of threats and challenges in our own lives, much less our own country.

Rewatching The King’s Speech with some friends, I was reminded how precious it is to have a voice and to have that voice heard. Certainly many problems we have been collectively facing of late stem from voices being too strong, voices that speak loudly and falsely. But for others of us, not on the national or global stage, the problem is with speaking too quietly, if at all, and too timidly. We do each have a voice and, while I might not wish to hear several among us, their speaking is not the problem. See, the privilege of having a voice is accompanied by the privilege of having ears.

I was going to write this whole post about that movie and some good, topical take-aways I got from it. In the event, surprise, that is not how it has happened.

There’s not loads to report on my life this week, other than frustrating paperwork being worked on and the like. Going on a brief trip this holiday weekend to Ocean Shores so I had to stock up on warm and cozy cat snuggles.

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I did not watch all of the farewell speech this week, but I did read the entire transcript. It was well written and well taken, more than I anticipate from any speech that will be forthcoming from the Oval Office in the next several years. Anyway, I liked the speech overall and I wanted to discuss a bit one particular moment from it. Talking about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, Obama said,

It’s the insistence that these rights, while self-evident, have never been self-executing; that We, the People, through the instrument of our democracy, can form a more perfect union.

Self-executing indeed. I am always struggling with what these rights look like in my own soul; I cannot imagine working them out for an entire country millions strong. As much as I fervently believe that we can, together, build a more perfect union, I also believe that perfection is unquestioningly unattainable. My teleological worldview does imply an eventual end to history but it does not require an arch bending toward justice. I do not believe that we inherently march toward goodness. All I know is that one day, everything will be good and perfect, regardless of what has come before.

In the meantime, it’s difficult not to feel a deep-seated restlessness. This restlessness stems from a knowledge that we will never get it right but somehow we’re meant to. We had the blueprints for perfection but somewhere along the line each of us tore them up in favor of living in comfortable squalor instead.

I contemplated, briefly, having this post simply reproduce Wordsworth’s The Prelude because it’s over six hundred lines of magic. But I did not because it’s over six hundred lines. Then I contemplated including just the first stanza because it’s beautiful. But I did not because I could not decide where to cut it off, perhaps it needed more than just the first stanza, perhaps I could use just part of the first stanza. Alas.

In the end, a single line from the opening made its way into this entry. It is the title. This line haunts me with its eloquence and tenderness. And its truth aches and emboldens.

Every day, I feel myself a discontented sojourner in this world so often dismal. Every day, I must remind myself that I have been freed. It does not matter where my steps are directed, they are taking me home. I am yet a wayfaring stranger in this world of woe, but while I’m here I can embrace the freedom that comes from declining to care what this world thinks of me. I can use that freedom to love in ways that other people think are foolish at best or downright disgraceful at worst.

I would much rather be counted a fool for loving much than wise for loving little.

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