Confession of a 21st-Century Lotus Eater

“COURAGE!” he said, and pointed toward the land,
“This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon.”
In the afternoon they came unto a land
In which it seemed always afternoon.
All round the coast the languid air did swoon,
Breathing like one that hath a weary dream…

As much as I love Brit Lit, I’m not all that into poetry. Tennyson’s The Lotos-Eaters is etched in my memory, however, though I humbly admit that it is not so much from its own merit as that of a particular Little House on the Prairie reference.

…A land where all things always seem’d the same!
And round about the keel with faces pale,
Dark faces pale against that rosy flame,
The mild-eyed melancholy Lotos-eaters came.
Branches they bore of that enchanted stem,
Laden with flower and fruit, whereof they gave
To each, but whoso did receive of them
And taste, to him the gushing of the wave
Far far away did seem to mourn and rave…

While this post is not really Guatemala Part II, on the last day of our trip the poem came to mind during a conversation about some of the cultural differences and challenges faced by the Church, there and here. The stout mariners, bewitched by the pleasantly lazy haze of the lotus, were somehow the most ready comparison I could come up with in describing the state of many of my brothers and sisters, and even myself, here in America. And I’ve been thinking about it since.

…They sat them down upon the yellow sand,
Between the sun and moon upon the shore;
And sweet it was to dream of Fatherland,
Of child, and wife, and slave; but evermore
Most weary seem’d the sea, weary the oar,
Weary the wandering fields of barren foam.
Then some one said, “We will return no more;”
And all at once they sang, “Our island home
Is far beyond the wave; we will no longer roam…”

This is not Home. We know this. We love to sing about our “someday house.” Yet it is so far…we are lulled…we are more than content to settle.

…Why are we weigh’d upon with heaviness,
And utterly consumed with sharp distress,
While all things else have rest from weariness?
All things have rest: why should we toil alone,
We only toil, who are the first of things,
And make perpetual moan,
Still from one sorrow to another thrown;
Nor ever fold our wings,
And cease from wanderings,
Nor steep our brows in slumber’s holy balm;
Nor harken what the inner spirit sings,
“There is no joy but calm!” –
Why should we only toil, the roof and crown of things?…

Escape…entitlement…“dreamful ease” in the guise of the American dream…

…The Lotos blooms below the barren peak,
The Lotos blows by every winding creek;
All day the wind breathes low with mellower tone;
Thro’ every hollow cave and alley lone
Round and round the spicy downs the yellow Lotos-dust is blown…

It’s all around us – the dust of decadence and indolence, swirling about in a haze of beauty and luxury and indulgence in the form of weekenders and mini-vacays and artisan coffee and pseudo-intellectualism and Netflix marathons and idle laughter and “comfort” recipes on Pinterest and the sale rack at the Loft and picture-perfect houses and postcard landscapes and matchy-matchy, magazine-worthy pictures and cushy dream jobs.

We have had enough of action, and of motion we,
Roll’d to starboard, roll’d to larboard, when the surge was seething free,
Where the wallowing monster spouted his foam-fountains in the sea.
Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind,
In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined
On the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind.
For they lie beside their nectar, and the bolts are hurl’d
Far below them in the valleys, and the clouds are lightly curl’d
Round their golden houses, girdled with the gleaming world;
Where they smile in secret, looking over wasted lands,
Blight and famine, plague and earthquake, roaring deeps and fiery sands,
Clanging fights, and flaming towns, and sinking ships, and praying hands…

Life, real and gritty and painful and sin-sick, is going on everywhere around us. And yet we, the hands and feet of Christ on earth, live our lives as though

Surely, surely, slumber is more sweet than toil, the shore
Than labor in the deep mid-ocean, wind and wave and oar;
O, rest ye, brother mariners, we will not wander more.

I’m nowhere near done thinking about this. I’ve babbled incoherently and butchered a classic. But I do pray, and hope you’ll join me in praying, most simply yet sincerely, that God would awaken us.

2 thoughts on “Confession of a 21st-Century Lotus Eater

  1. Hi Meredith, enjoy your posts. The sentence below is one of the best I’ve seen. Keep it up.

    “It’s all around us – the dust of decadence and indolence, swirling about in a haze of beauty and luxury and indulgence in the form of weekenders and mini-vacays and artisan coffee and pseudo-intellectualism and Netflix marathons and idle laughter and “comfort” recipes on Pinterest and the sale rack at the Loft and picture-perfect houses and postcard landscapes and matchy-matchy, magazine-worthy pictures and cushy dream jobs.”

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