That quote from Mumford and Sons actually comes from Chesterton, describing what St Francis went through in his conversion to the saint everyone loves to misunderstand.
Chesterton, of course, was not able to know what exactly happened. But in his description, there is a secondary gem. The song is about St Francis, it’s about you and me. The world is indeed, upside down.
Don’t think so? Look at American politics right now. Look at the media. Heck, look at my Facebook feed, there are more contradictions than you can shake a stick at! It seems everyone has a worldview they look through and everything that doesn’t fit is wrong. I include myself, I know I have biases. But because I have biases, I have to try to reconcile my thoughts to reality.
The problem is, the world doesn’t recognize reality anymore. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the recent human rights day, when planned parenthood tweeted that all humans deserve to be protected, no exceptions. Except for humans in the womb. Either that or they are saying that the thing in the womb is not human, which is scientifically impossible. What is it then, a rock? A dog? A chestburster? This tweet was a giant self-own, yet millions of people just thought, yeah, planned parenthood is right!
What the hell?
And I can go on. I watched an ad for Dove shampoo. They blatantly say that men and women’s hair are different, so buy their products that are sex-specific. But then I am told there is no difference and that men can have babies. Huh?
Then there is the whole discrimination thing. We have laws out the ying-yang that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, disability, or orientation. We can’t hire and fire based on this. However, it’s perfectly legal to kill an unborn child for these reasons. Don’t want a girl? Kill it in the uterus. You find out the kid might have a disability or deformity? Kill it in utero. Don’t want a mixed-race baby? Kill it in utero. Wow, if you catch them before they are born, you can discriminate against whoever you want! Doesn’t that seem contradictory?
Another very popular thing to talk about is suicide. There are a ton of posts asking people to reach out and help, and a prevention hotline. Heck, I’ve been affected by it. Buuuuut as we champion these things we say nothing about people committing suicide in our country every day, because assisted suicide is legal. Wait, it’s ok because it’s legal and a doctor helps you, but it’s a tragedy if a doctor doesn’t help you?
The world has ceased to conform its thoughts with reality, and this is the basis of the world being upside down. A good parallel is Roman times, when emperors would declare themselves a god, and demand worship enough to kill tens of thousands of people. Yet everyone knew they would die and have no divine power. But, everyone went along! Like you do!
The solution? St Francis’ cave. The titular cave of the song, that Chesterton spoke of :
“The man who went into the cave was not the man who came out again; in that sense he was almost as different as if he were dead, as if he were a ghost or a blessed spirit. And the effects of this on his attitude towards the actual world were really as extravagant as any parallel can make them. He looked at the world as differently from other men as if he had come out of that dark hole walking on his hands.”
“… If a man saw the world upside down, with all the trees and towers hanging head downwards as in a pool, one effect would be to emphasise the idea of dependence.”
St. Francis saw the world as it was, wholly dependent on God, and grateful that God did not drop us into the great expanse of the cosmos. Read the whole chapter I linked above, it gives me goosebumps!
The freedom and joy of St Francis came from his surrender to the Divine Will, conforming his thoughts and actions to reality. His family and friends called him a fool. In the eyes of the world he was crazy, yet he may have been the most sane of anyone, because reality requires us to understand dependence, to understand the role of God. Remember, God IS Truth. As we deny reality, we deny God, and vice versa.
I have a love-hate relationship with St Francis. I love him for his complete conforming to the Gospel, and I wish to imitate his holiness. But I hate how the world forgot the sanctity and only remembers the man. The man who, if he had not been Holy, would not be remembered. But he continues to influence and we can take the lesson from him. The world is hanging upside down, and we are completely dependent!