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How do we compare the incomparable?

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By Wendy Binnie

Emily Dickinson rarely traveled outside of her birthplace, Amherst, or even very far from home. Much of her life was spent in her father’s house and much of that in her room.

Yet she leaves us a treasure trove of insights and beauty which can illuminate us. This remarkable poet wrote about places she had never seen. The moors and the ocean are two of them. She also wrote:

The bustle in a house

The morning after death

Is solemnest of industries

Enacted upon earth.

The sweeping up the heart,

And putting love away

We shall not want to use again

Until eternity.

When the bustle becomes quiet and still and one has the task of cleaning out closets and drawers, then one longs once more for the bustle. Love, like memory, must be stored in a safe place. Order must be created to counteract the chaos of death.

Her use of morning (mourning) is a stroke of brilliance; as is heart for hearth. If one indeed were to stop at every memento, treasured item or piece of clothing, the task might well last until eternity.

The following quotation has nothing whatsoever to do with Ms. Dickinson but is appended because words used today can sound true and desirable though they mask the evil that is lurking beneath. Dickinson’s words were pure, clean and even with the sad one above, strangely soothing.

“The national government will maintain and defend the foundations on which the power of our nation rests. It will offer strong protection to Christianity as the very basis of our collective morality.

“Today Christians stand at the head of our country. We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit. We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theatre, and in the press.

“In short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during the past years.”

Want to know who said that? Does it sound a little like Pat Robertson? Could it be a tract from the late Jerry Falwell or perhaps James Dobson?

Does it sound to you like something a neo-con might say? Or maybe it invokes memories of members of today’s administration when speaking to the Christian Coalition or other conservative Christian groups?

None of the above.

It was Adolf Hitler. Those were his views. Now we all know what he meant and what happened. Let’s work to keep the separation between Church and State.

In fact, turn off the news for a time and read Emily Dickinson – you’ll be glad you did.

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Wendy England Binnie, a novelist and op-ed columnist, lives in Oak Trace Villas. Contact her at smcnews@earthlink.net.