11/04/2013 06:32 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

The Educated Uneducated: Is the World Too Much With Us?

It's a schitzy time to be an American.
Since 9/11, more and more we have turned away from our individual lives and instead have taken on, in an utterly virtual way, the woes of the world.
With daily visual world news loops of hate and blood, the media has us by the neck, and we can't let go.

I don't know about you, but I'm betting those who join me in being a baby boomer did not have much of an education about the world and the news exterior to America as we grew up.
With the exception of my 5th grade teacher, who was obsessed with both Indonesia's President Sukarno and the historic Suez Canal Crisis, I don't remember thinking about, or being asked to imagine, the world outside of the United States.
The exception was Vietnam, but my education barely touched the war or that area of the world.

My teachers were specialists. My drama teacher one of the founders of the La Jolla Playhouse; my English teacher a Shakespearean actor.
And on it went, entertainingly.
The academic ambiance was perfect for imagining poetically the infinite possibilities of life and art.
It was as if the bigger world was optional; an elective course of interest and study, for those who found it so.
I'm not saying that this was a good thing, simply that it was a fact and an ambivalent blessing.

Dissimilarly, anyone and everyone today who watches the news is in the grip of a mandatory advanced world affairs education.
How are we doing with this?

On the one hand, naturally it can be said that the insularity of the latter midcentury was an unreal, even narcissistic bubble of innocence for a majority of middle and upper class Americans, as for the average American teenager.
Summer days were endless, as were the joyous, creative, nutritionally brilliant bubbles of music pouring out of the transistor radio as my friends and I lay on the warm La Jolla sand.
It seemed that we were all dreaming, as the Mamas and the Papas sang in "California Dreaming". Dreaming was the main thing to do.

Today, dreaming is a thing of the past, as the media deluges us with footage of daily violence in faraway places, as well as in our own backyards.
This is hard core education, not the stuff of dreams.
Our necks have all been twisted in the direction of Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East.
It is important that we know the world.
September 11 was the wake-up smack in the face for Americans; the force of the attack forcing our mental direction to other lands, to matters of violence and hate, to killing and war.

Of course, we cannot turn back the clock to September 10, 2001.
Further, it is right that we learn not only about the world, but also about the true America, far from the sanitized American island of luxury and supposed noble intents for the rest of the world.

Ignorance and the habits of unconcern for the world are not options for the thinking person, although there are plenty of celebrity media headlines to contain and distract the others.

Still, I wonder if we have gone too far; if the distraction of helpless compassion for brutality across the globe has carried us away from our personal lives and feelings.

Is the world too much with us?

"The World is Too Much With Us"
by William Wordsworth

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.