“The WORLD is too much with us,” says the poet Wordsworth, “late and soon, / Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.” I don’t know whether young people now possess the linguistic or theological sophistication to make sense of that sentence. They might ask, “How can the EARTH be too much with us? Or the UNIVERSE? Or REALITY?” But that’s the odd thing about our many-shaded use of WORLD, as Wordsworth understood. The WORLD can smother your love of real things. “Little we see in nature that is ours,” he says. Old Scrooge was a thoroughly WORLDLY man, and that is why he knew so little of reality, never having met his nephew’s beloved, and never having stepped foot in the poor flat of his clerk, Bob Cratchit.
There is often a moral shading to our use of WORLD. The boy Booker T. Washington left his home in the coal mines of West Virginia to go out into the WORLD, which for him meant Hampton, Virginia, 500 miles away, and the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hamp…
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