“Laugh and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone….”
The poem “Solitude” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (below in its entirety) is a powerful exploration of an undeniable reality of human nature. There is a natural desire to seek out that which exudes happiness and cheer and to avoid pain and darkness. It extends to our tendency to gravitate toward other people who are joyful and happy and full of positive energy. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I think it is healthy to surround ourselves with people who are positive and encouraging and exhibit love, joy and peace. No one wants to be around those who are constantly negative, cynical, sarcastic and depressing. So in one sense, this poem is a clue to the reality that others are attracted to us if we endeavor to be cheerful and positive rather than negative and gloomy.
But understanding this truth of human nature also informs us we should not ignore those around us who are hurting. Even though our natural tendency is to seek out joy and happiness and people who exude those things, the reality is we should cultivate within ourselves a desire to help others in their time of need. We all go through difficult times and need help from others who are in a stronger place in their lives – people who can reach out to us and draw us out of depression, grief or other pains.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox emphasizes the uncaring world by exploring not only how we humans often flee from those in pain, but how the earth itself is indifferent to human suffering:
“Sing and the hills will answer; Sigh, it is lost on the air”
Eventually, as the last lines explain, we will all travel down “the narrow aisles of pain”. And in some sense we have to be realistic that there are times when no one but God can ultimately save us and help us in our deepest and darkest hours. And while this poem is primarily a warning about our own destiny, it can serve as an exhortation to look around us to find others who need our help and support.
“Succeed and give, and it helps you live,”
Curb that tendency to gravitate toward only those in a happy and carefree time in their lives and have a seat next to someone suffering there alone staring out at an uncaring world. When we are physically, emotionally and spiritually strong we are well-equipped to reach out a hand to draw someone out of their darkness. Rise above that natural urge and become the one who can make a difference in someone else’s life. Someday you too will be the one sitting alone on that bench waiting for someone to come to your side.
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air.
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.
Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go.
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all.
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life’s gall.
Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a long and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.
Thanks for stopping by.
What do you think? Have you had a time in your life when someone went out of their way to draw you out of a dark place?
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