Monday, August 16, 2010

Far From the Madding Crowd

This is not about Thomas Hardy's book, though I like that novel. I'm just using the title because I have always found this phrase so appealing. It gives me the feeling of remote solitariness and tranquility, away from the cacophony of urban environment. 

This phrase always comes to mind every time we are headed to the countryside and I see all those farm houses and lake houses scattered throughout the boundless green fields of grass, grain crops and trees. They stand there at the far end of the fields, or in the middle, and alongside the lakes. 

As I look at them, I try to imagine what kind of people live there, and how they spend their days. Are they aware of their delightful natural surroundings, and do they enjoy their beauty? Are they happy with their lives there? Don't they mind the distance that separates them from the glittery attractions of the city? Are they the ones referred to by Thomas Gray in these lines from Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard?

"Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenour of their way."

As I see it, they may be far from the madding crowd, but they are not without advance technology. They have nice houses, cars, internet and other latest electronic gadgets, beautifully designed gardens and outdoor dining sets. It seems like those people living there are sophisticated, and yet they just love to be away from the noisy confusion of the city. They live in their own serene paradise, their kind of retreat that is far from the madding crowd.

Still, I wonder how they truly feel about living there. And I wonder how I personally feel if I live there. The stillness and the remoteness evoke in me a sense of enchantment.