The World Is Too Much With Us

Aug 12, 2019


Truer words were never spoken or written: “The world is too much with us; late and soon,/Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers…”[1]  How could William Wordsworth who penned this sonnet around 1802 have known our world so well? We lay waste our powers– our attention, our truer selves, our purpose, our talents and gifts, even, in being distracted from life itself by our phones and the internet, by the world’s measure of success and by accumulating things that have no real meaning other than saying that we’re successful—in the world’s terms. By “getting and spending“ on mere stuff, by getting and spending our best energies on useless distractions that keep us stuck in the world’s vortex,  we are unable to discern what would actually bring us meaning and joy.


What is life? And how are we to live meaningful lives? It takes shedding the world’s agenda and taking a good, long look at ourselves to divine with God what work, what vocation would bring real meaning into our lives. It takes a personal inventory and understanding of who we were created to be to allow the unthinkable, the daring, the most relevant for each of us to enter our lives. The world offers distractions and a lowest common denominator to our thinking, rather than encouraging us to follow our own hearts and minds and talents and gifts to see where they would lead. We are so conditioned to think in the ways of the world that we are not even aware of how adapted we are, how off-target from our truer selves we are.


Everyone as we grew up—parents and teachers and friends even—were setting us up to pursue an agenda that had nothing to do with who we really are, who we are wholly. Those teachings about how to be successful in this world created a diversion away from knowing our truest selves and what really serves and sustains and motivates and fulfills us. And we carry the world’s agenda well into adulthood, still trying to live in the cultural paradigm.


If we are fortunate, something takes us off that mindless path—an illness, a death of someone close to us, an earthquake or other natural disaster.  Or we might even realize as we get to mid-life that what we are doing doesn’t serve us, so we begin to rethink how we want to live our lives.  For me it was a simple thought(from God) that resonated through all that I am and made me look at my life in a new light: “I have an agenda for my life.” I did not know who the “I” was who had an agenda, much less what that agenda might be. I began a long journey by asking a new question of myself: “What do I really want to do?” Not,” what should I be doing?” Or “What does everyone else think I should do?” As I asked this question, my choices began to change from an outer referencing to an inner referencing, and I began to learn about my real identity. I had finally given myself permission to follow my own inclinations.


As I learned to pay attention to my own desires in the small stuff of life, I also gained traction in the deeper issues. I gave my life to Christ. Eventually, I found a vocation as a spiritual director, then as a blogger about living the spiritual life and then as an author of two books on the same topic. It has been a long, but rich journey, one I will long cherish. Of course, I am talking about things that God led me to, that He had foreseen in me at my creation, just as He has for each one of us. How much more interesting the world would be if we were focused on bringing forward our own innate selves instead of blindly following the world’s direction?


Is the world too much with you? Do you feel fulfilled? Are you leading a meaningful life? Are your talents and great gifts engaged fully in what you are doing? Is there joy and peace in your life no matter what happens? What brings you joy and fills you up? If you had your druthers, what would you be doing, how would you be living? Will you risk everything to follow your dreams and longings, not the world’s dreams


One thing that is clear to me is this: that we already live in God, that we already know deep inside ourselves who we are and what we are to do and how we are to do it. All we have to do is to pay attention to that “still, small voice”[2] and it will lead us to our truest selves. The more we pay attention to God and to our own longings, the more we realize in our lives that we live in the kingdom already, if we can just still the worldly impulses so engrained in us in favor of God’s inspiration and challenge every day, then we would realize the divine potential within us.


Perhaps you can see what a great hold the world has on you from what I have written here or from your own personal experience. Perhaps you might see the value of looking squarely at your own deeper self and seeing what would really bring you happiness and real aliveness. Jesus did say, “No man can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”[3]  It’s our choice who we serve and how we will live. How will you choose?


Questions to ponder over the week: What does fulfill me and bring me joy? How much attention do I give to God and to my true self? Am I willing to give up my attachment to the world to find myself? What would I have to give up? Am I willing to pay the price?  [Choose the one or ones that seem to call you.]


Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who live lives grounded in Him and in our true selves. May we say/do/be all that we can. May we live our lives in love for God and our fellow human beings.


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Check out my other, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts 2x a month. 8.1.19’s is entitled “God Speaks to Us.”




[2] 1 Kings 19:12

[3] Matthew 6:24 NIV

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