Sorry for how late this Mondays with Muddy post is, but I spent most of the day binge watching Orange is the New Black. Without further ado, here is the next installment of Beatrice Allen Page’s “Landscape With Figures.”
“Last evening I started to dust and sort out the miscellany of books left in the cottage over the years. However, I had no more than shaken the dead silverfish out of a couple than I came upon a copy of ‘The Outermost House’ and spent the rest of the evening absorbed in it. When I first read it, I was still too young, and life was too full of excitement for me to really appreciate it.
‘The world today,’ Henry Beston wrote, ‘is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water welling up from the earth, for air, for the dear earth itself under foot.’
So he built himself a cabin on a Cape Cod dune and spent a lovely year there. ‘I found myself free to do so,’ he writes without apology. He felt no guilt in seeking his own renewal in solitude and nature even though the world was sick. On the contrary, it seemed to him a sensible thing to do. I’m glad and grateful that he felt that way because out of the experience came his book about ‘mysterious and elemental life’ of the coast which has refreshed and invigorated so many people since it was first published in 1928.
But I wonder – would Beston have enjoyed a year of living on his Cape Cod dune in our time? Would he have even tried it? He might have found himself ‘free to do so’ as far as the circumstances were concerned, but would he have felt free morally? Wouldn’t he have felt bound to minister to the sick world in some direct, obvious, practical way? Not just because our world is a lot sicker than his was, but because our era puts such value on ‘involvement?’
Involvement has come to mean active participation in social, political or world problems. It means working with people as groups, sitting on committees, getting down to the ‘nitty-gritty,’ ‘coming to grips with reality.’
I suspect that a good many people today must feel indignant about the story of Martha and Mary, if they happen to read it. They would change the ending. Mary would be told to get up from kneeling on the floor at Jesus’s feet and get to work, and the more cumbered she became with serving, the more red-faced from the heat in the kitchen, the more praiseworthy she would appear in the eyes of everyone. “