Call the World “the Vale of Soul Making”

The Commonweal bluff at night. Photo: Power of Hope 2022

Dear New School Friends,

Call the world, if you please, “the Vale of Soul Making,” [wrote the poet John Keats to a friend.] Then you will understand the use of the world.

I hope this finds you as well as you can be in troubled times. Truth is, times have been troubled for many people around the world for centuries, even millennia. So troubled times are not new. What hasn’t happened before any time recently is that the troubles are landing on the doorsteps of people who have enjoyed some measure of peace and security—however tenuous that peace and security may have been.

A great sadness is settling on the world. New York Times columnist David Brooks, a centrist Republican who writes thoughtful essays, put it this way:

The negativity in the culture reflects the negativity in real life. The General Social Survey asks people to rate their happiness levels. Between 1990 and 2018 the share of Americans who put themselves in the lowest happiness category increased by more than 50 percent. And that was before the pandemic. Continue reading