Affluence

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Here’s a quick look at what the dictionary says about the original meanings of the word ‘affluence’:

affluence (n.)mid-14c., “a plentiful flowing, an abundant supply,” from Old French affluence, from Latin affluentia “affluence, abundance,” literally “a flowing to,” abstract noun from affluentem (nominative affluens) “flowing toward; abounding.

As we were walking up and down some of the hills near the Mystic River on this morning’s walk, I realized, again, how fortunate we were to be moving our legs with relatively little effort. To someone confined to a wheelchair, the easygoing motions of our legs would have seemed miraculous, almost as if our bodies were flowing up the hills instead of walking. In fact, all of life often seems miraculous to me, as if everything flows along with graceful facility, even though I often – perhaps usually – don’t see the suppleness of the flow, especially in times, like now, of turmoil and trepidation. Still, even this morning, when the fear of illness is following everyone everywhere, I felt the overwhelming affluence of this life we all share – the way moments are always flowing with freedom into new moments, and the way kindness is always quietly flowing through fear and showing its forcefulness . At one point, we came upon a “crowd, a host, of golden daffodils”, as the poet William Wordsworth once wrote,

and again, I thought of affluence, the way the blossoms seemed immensely prosperous as they spilled over on each other, almost as though they were not a group of separate flowers but rather a single overflowing wealth of color. A few minutes later, we saw this little tree and its luxurious blossoms

and I thought, yes, today there is fear and suffering across the world, but there is also the infinite affluence of life itself, as in this humble little tree that is pouring forth the kind of light-filled loveliness that ceaselessly flows all around us, even during these days of serious distress and darkness.

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“As for the [old woman], she took on a sudden look of youth; you felt as if she promised a great future, and was beginning, not ending …” — Sarah Orne Jewett, The Country of the Pointed Firs  

            Every so often, like the old woman in Jewett’s story, I have a feeling of sudden youthfulness, as if I’m 8 instead of 78, as if spring is just starting in me as well as in the trees beside our house. This feeling flows from some place that’s a mystery to me, somewhere as near as my heart and as far off as the farthest stars, and I’m never sure when it will show up. Sometimes the feeling starts when I’m eating something special and sensing how young the universe is and how really young my life is. Or it might begin when I’m breathing hard on my bike on far-reaching roads on days that sing of cleanness and new starts. Sometimes it’s only a little feeling, but one that finds me just when I most need to feel fresh and unfenced, when I most need to notice the childish shine on my hands. Since, like all of us, I have this kind of innocence deep inside me, all I need to do is see it and accept it, and then let my life leap and flow around like the young thing it always truly is. 

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Here’s our walk this morning:

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