"The world is too much with us," wrote Wordsworth at the beginning of a sonnet extolling the wonders of nature. Yes, dear William, the world is too much with me. And my good wife. We seem to rely inordinately on being wired, to the readers of this blog, to e-mail, to the journals Science and Nature, to the New York Times (and its daily crossword), to CNN, BBC, Salon, the endless compendium of knowledge that is the world wide web.
The whole point of being on this little island was to disconnect. No television. No cell phone. The land line seldom rings. Pare away the clutter; that was the idea. Live close to nature. Simplify.
But the internet has a way of sucking the air out of one's Wordsworthean resolutions. Pixelating attention. As a writer, I couldn't live without it.
"The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it," wrote Thoreau. The cost of the internet is fair enough -- when it works. It's when it doesn't work that the price seems exorbitant, too much out of life's pocket. All that angry frustration frittering away the day. Some of which I now dump on you, my tolerant friends.
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. -- Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.