Those whose monetary demureness put them at odds when everyone else was giddy with money must have felt like the subject of Emily Dickinson’s “Much Madness is divinest Sense — ”

Much Madness is divinest Sense –
To a discerning Eye –
Much Sense – the starkest Madness –
‘Tis the Majority
In this, as all, prevail –
Assent – and you are sane –
Demur – you’re straightway dangerous –
And handled with a Chain.

“The recession is not a ‘much-needed reality check’ — it’s a source of great suffering,” said Toby Young in The Spectator on January 7.

“Puritans love disasters. No sooner has some calamity befallen mankind than some hair-shirted scold emerges from his priest hole and starts wagging his finger. The message is always the same: ‘You are being punished for your immoral lifestyle.’

“The latest grist to the puritan mill is, of course, the credit crunch.”

I’ve long identified myself with “.. a discerning Eye”, and the poem that gave me cover for behavior and choices that were incomprehensible to loved ones and friends.  When he kindly showed up with sentiments similar to my own, I liked to imagine that marrying a man because I had imagined him the embodiment of an idyll since I was a teenager was sensible. “Much Sense — the starkest Madness —”. Turns out I was on the wrong side of sanity.

I caught a glimpse on television yesterday of an investment bank president now regarded as one responsible for institutional failures.  He was being escorted to a limousine at the curb outside a courthouse while twisted angry faces spit bitter, abusive words into his face.

I, who have changed the course of others’ lives more than once out of my own unconventional judgment, recognize a bit of the puritan described by Mr Young in myself in response to financial news. But watching the spectacle of anger and downfall, I thought of this poem and how madness and saneness are a topsy-turvy question of definitions. “In this, as all, prevail — ”

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way