Except as we have loved, All news arrives as from a distant land.

Mary Oliver has a new poetry collection  New and Selected Poems Volume I 

This remarkable poem, Beyond The Snow Belt appears on the website Experimental Theology where the author Richard Beck explores the poem with reference to the harrowing shootings in Arizona. 

Beyond the Snow Belt
Over the local stations, one by one,
Announcers list disasters like dark poems
That always happen in the skull of winter.
But once again the storm has passed us by:
Lovely and moderate, the snow lies down
While shouting children hurry back to play,
And scarved and smiling citizens once more
Sweep down their easy paths of pride and welcome.

And what else might we do? Let us be truthful.
Two counties north the storm has taken lives.
Two counties north, to us, is far away, -
A land of trees, a wing upon a map,
A wild place never visited, - so we
Forget with ease each far mortality.

Peacefully from our frozen yards we watch
Our children running on the mild white hills.
This is the landscape that we understand, -
And till the principle of things takes root,
How shall examples move us from our calm?
I do not say that is not a fault.
I only say, except as we have loved,
All news arrives as from a distant land. 

My Reflection 

This is a great poem but at one level I find myself in opposition to parts of it.

I do find it almost unbearable some days to listen to the news because there is a never ending saga of disasters and not to see the suffering in the world as if it was our own for more than a short time is nothing more than human nature.  

Yet I don't think all people do "forget with ease each far mortality" . 

I think we ARE saturated with the closeness of global and personal disasters, murders, wars, famine, disease - the list is endless and all of it  does affect us deeply even if only at a subconscious level.  

But the line that lingers most for me is "And till the principle of things take root, how shall examples move us from our calm?"    
Many people end up as emotional junkies always looking for the next fix of bad news to talk about or end up burntout with compassion fatigue. 

Compassion is one thing but the problems of the world need solving and at times they are overwhelming. Sometimes "the world is too much with us. " ( Wordsworth)

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Anonymous said...

Hi Phil. I love your line about 'emotional junkies' because it is so true, we can become addicted to this bad news, discouragement, etc. And, it's easy to get caught up in that trap. We must keep the hope of the resurrection in sight.

Philomena Ewing said...

Hi Andie,
Great to have you visit again - I hope you had a good break. On the emotional junkie theme I agreew with your comments on the resurrection .A wise friend said that to break falling into the trap of discouragement at continuous bad news we should start with gratitude. This leads to some joy,which then in turn leads to generosity and then compassion and back to gratitude.