Friday 16th September 2011
WEEP, and you weep alone. Er… no. I don’t agree, don’t accept the premise, and don’t think this ‘proverb’ should be read as an eternal truth.
The line comes from Solitude by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, following an encounter with a weeping widow on her way to a ball. Miss Wilcox remained in sombre mood throughout the celebrations, allegedly being inspired to pen the opening lines on seeing ‘her own radiant face in the mirror’ and recalling the woman’s grief.
The poem was first published in 1883, in a New York newspaper called The Sun. They paid her $5 for it.
A century later, she might have written:
Laugh, and the world laughs with you,
But weeping in public is demeaning;
I’m not having fun, my mascara has run:
Selfish cow, she’s ruined the whole evening.
Apologies for my cynicism. Or am I being what is now called ‘ironic’?
The world faces an increasing number of tensions. We live in an era of uncertainty, exploitation, and simmering unrest. Fear lurks in the corridors of power, while dread churns the stomachs of the refugee camp. More time is spent analysing the rich-poor divide than it is redressing the imbalance. Ruthlessness is rife, remorse rarely seen or heard.
Are we heading for a self-inflicted apocalypse? Will our arrogance end in one of the global catastrophes imagined by writers of science fiction? Is the best option available for humankind the possibility of small numbers surviving a devastating virus or nuclear winter? And can we expect the final editions of the world’s media outlets to carry headlines blaming the former on the NHS and the latter on a shortage of council gritters?
Last night, my younger daughter and I watched a video: Oranges and Sunshine, the feature film debut of Jim Loach. It tells of a social worker’s researches into the forced migration of children. Tears slipped down our faces throughout.
The future’s best hope lies in empathy, in feeling a kinship of sorrow with and for others, not just ourselves. It is time we stopped weeping alone.