The name “Let the great world spin”


The original name for this blog was “”–a phrase from Sri Lanka about approaching all tasks in life a little bit at a time. But that didn’t quite resonate with our early readers of this site, so we switched it to “let the great world spin.”

Many of you may be familiar with the book of the same title by Colum McCann that came out a few years ago. I’d feel funny about appropriating this used title except that he borrowed it from Tennyson, who borrowed it from an earlier source. I like this idea, that we’re all borrowing from each other on this grand journey of ours. Plus, “Let the Great World Spin” implies an admiration for this planet that is spinning beneath our feet while the three of us just meander along from one surprising place to another. Just let it spin, this great world.

Here’s what McCann writes: “The title of this book comes from the Alfred, Lord Tennyson poem ‘Locksley Hall.’ That in turn was heavily influenced by the ‘Mu’allaqat,’ or the ‘Suspended Poems,’ seven long Arabic poems written in the sixth century. Tennyson’s poem mentions “pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales, and the Mu’allaqat asks, ‘Is there any hope that this desolation can bring me solace?’ Literature can remind us that not all life is already written down: there are still so many stories to be told.”


Finally, here’s the exact quote from Tennyson:

Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward, forward let us range,
Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.