The Pulley (1633)
by George Herbert
When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by;
Let us (said he) pour on him all we can;
Let the world’s riches, which dispersed lie,
Contract into a span.
So strength first made a way;
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour,
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that alone of all his treasure
Rest in the bottom lay.
For if I should (said he)
Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature;
So both should losers be.
Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness:
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet wearinesss
May toss him to my breast
Sometimes I think our world is weary and then I find out it’s just me.
How far, how much, how unfathomable are the lengths to which we go with wealth. Whole villages are bought for our philanthropy or, better yet, take a child and grant him Hollywood.
What terrible irony that such a city should be named for the blessed Cross of Christ, though no one ever thinks of the Holy Wood when they hear the name invoked.
There is a weariness of a world which no longer rejoices in the birth of children, only of a child, who, alone, will bear the brunt of all a family’s hopes, if hopes there be. But now our world shrinks, as Malthusian fears triumph and children are heard less and less. And with the divorce comes the blessing, “At least they had no children.”
Children are a marvelous gift of God. My parish is beginning to flourish with children and pregnant women. It is a noise I had almost forgotten as my own children have slowly grown into quiet, thinking, mostly adults. But in Western Country after Western Country, birthrates continue to shrink. Excuses such as overpopulation and the like come easily when the truth is that children “cost too much” and they’re “ever so much bother.” Surely it cannot be that the post-Christian nations of the world are so good that they have birth-controlled themselves out of existence and yet that is the claim.
The Marriage service of the Church in Orthodoxy is so unlike that of the West. No promises, no contract, indeed the bride and groom almost disappear in the midst of the prayers and songs – begging of God the blessings of children and their prosperity. “May you see your children’s children!” A prayer that has become almost a complete impossibility in some countries, where a generation of only children have made the words “aunt” and “uncle” obsolete – where no child will ever have a cousin. What will it mean?
John Paul II once spoke of the “culture of death” when he described the West. We’re not so much the culture of death as the culture that isn’t living. Sure, we kill plenty of people and would kill many more if only electorates would let us. Fewer elderly and fewer unborn would somehow make things better. There would be “less suffering.” But the goodness that afflicts us is the goodness that bears no fruit. Sex that has no purpose – wealth with nothing to buy and no one to buy it for.
Some are writing today of a “clash of civilizations,” but that would presume that there are at least two civilizations involved. Ours is weary, deeply weary. We can only pray that it draws us to God’s breast and not to the yawning emptiness that we create for ourselves.
O gracious God, forgive us as we despise the life you so abundantly shed. Teach us to love life and bless it for the gift it truly is.