Young people are taught that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. If you can dream it, you can do it. And when we’re young, we believe it. The world seems full of promise and possibilities.
And then, we grow up. And life happens—with all of its disappointments and harsh realities. Henry David Thoreau described it this way: “The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or perchance a palace or temple on the earth, and at length the middle-aged man concludes to build a wood-shed with them.”[i]
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a dose of realism, with knowing our limitations as well as our strengths. But what about that bridge to the moon? Is the purpose of life to knock some sense into us, to teach us to lower our expectations or bridle our dreams? Is that any way to live?
The poet William Wordsworth, describing what he called his “recollections of early childhood,” spoke of “a time when meadow, grove, and stream, the earth, and every common sight, to me did seem appareled in celestial light.”[ii]
Wordsworth suggested that children see the world this way not because they are naive or inexperienced, but because they are closer to God, to our heavenly home:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy![iii]
Experience in this world doesn’t necessarily open our eyes—in some cases, it clouds them. There is no question that the present world closes in on us and can consume our thinking, inclining us toward pessimism, even hopelessness. But heaven still lies about us, if we could only see it! We came from realms of glory, and glory awaits us in the future—glory that could make even “a bridge to the moon” seem possible. Bright and buoyant optimism is not just for youth; it’s for anyone who is willing to raise their sights and see the future with hope.
[i] The Writings of Henry David Thoreau: Journals, May 1, 1852–February 27, 1853, ed. Bradford Torrey (1906), July 14, 1852, 4:227.
[ii] “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” in The Collected Poems of William Wordsworth (1994), 587.
[iii] “Intimations of Immortality,” 588.
October 11, 2020 Trailing Clouds of Glory
Broadcast Number 4,752
The Tabernacle Choir
Orchestra at Temple Square
Mack Wilberg and Ryan Murphy
Redeemer of Israel
Freeman Lewis; arr. Mack Wilberg
I Know That My Savior Loves Me
Tami Jeppson Creamer and Derena Bell; arr. Ryan Murphy
Praise and Thanksgiving
Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’, from Oklahoma!
Richard Rodgers; arr. Arthur Harris
Tree of Life
The Morning Breaks
George Careless; arr. Mack Wilberg