“I mused and my spirit grew faint.” Psalm 77:3
Why some books or plays or movies stay with you is a mystery. Take Flowers for Algernon—I’ve seen it as a movie (Charly, 1968, starring Cliff Robertson, who won an Academy Award for Best Actor), it’s been performed as a play by thousands of high schools; and I read the book, as have millions of others. It once was required reading all over the place. Still is, I'm sure.
The unmistakable takeaway of that story is that Charly Gordon, the mentally challenged bakery assistant, was better off—more happy, more secure, more resilient, and vastly less troubled when he couldn't think. For him, becoming normal, which is to say thoughtful, was a horror. Unlike Asaph, he had never mused; once he started thinking, he was in trouble.
I spent my working life as a college professor. I studied literature because of Emerson and Thoreau and a whole host of thinkers. I believe in ideas, trumpet their efficacy and their startling joy. I could sit most of the day and think. Some days, now that I’m retired, I do.
But I know what my wife is thinking when she tells me when she wishes she were a cat, nothing to do but eat and sleep and hold that constant, emotionless cat look. Sometimes she wishes she didn’t muse. I get that. I know the feeling too. The spirit doesn't appear to go faint.
Several people are here with me this morning. There’s Charly Gordon—I’ve conjured him myself. There’s Asaph, the poet, meticulously recounting what seems insomnia at best, or depression, at worst. His voice speaks Psalm 77.
There’s more. Stepping from the open book beside me is Charles H. Spurgeon, who’s walking through the Psalms with me; and what he says about Psalm 77:3 is stunningly personal: “Alas, my God, the writer of this exposition [which is to say Spurgeon himself] well knows what thy servant Asaph meant, for his soul is familiar with the way of grief. Deep glens and lonely caves of soul depressions, my spirit knows full well your awful glooms!”
In case you missed it, Spurgeon just opened a vein on the page.
So, who’s all here? Charly Gordon, eating a donut, feeling fine. He doesn’t think much about Asaph’s story. But Spurgeon winces when he reads this verse and so do I because we’ve been there, done that.
Right now, down here in the basement, a number of us are musing. Not Charly, who’s just now getting home from a bakery, and the cat, asleep across the room on the couch.
So answer me this: who’s most blessed? Charly is wiping the last spot of cream from the donut he snitched right before he left work, smiling to beat the band. The cat is out cold, never once raises his head.
Asaph is musing, his spirit’s growing faint. Spurgeon is remembering his own life soberly, wishing he could forget. And me?--it’s cloudy again outside, and I’m worried about. . .very real worries.
And you’re here too, if you’re reading these words.
But my job is to try to make sense of things, to try to make music out of all these discordant melodies. A whole pageant of shimmering holograms dances on my computer screen. I’m one of them—and I’m the choreographer.
This Sunday morning these very words are my musing, my ideas. Let me tell you, my spirit would indeed be faint—yea, it would unravel me, send me forever adrift were it not for the cat and the good musing company all around.
“It’s just good to know you’re not alone,” he mused. Me, that is.
Thank the God of the Scripture for Asaph. We're not alone--no, never alone.