FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2021
Norman O. Brown got it right: It was our former neighbor Thoreau who said it, though it's sometimes misquoted:
"In wildness is the preservation of the world."
No, he didn't say "wilderness." But that tiny misquotation is certainly close enough.
Our neighbor Thoreau made this remark in his lecture-turned-essay, Walking. As part of the essay, he also made the highlighted remark, as was his perhaps unfortunate wont:
I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least—and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. You may safely say, A penny for your thoughts, or a thousand pounds. When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them—as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon—I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.
Our neighbor had a tendency to extend such left-handed sympathy to those who worked for a living. In Walden, this tendency produced one of his most widely-quoted remarks:
"The mass of men [sic] lead lives of quiet desperation."
Do you ever wonder how such statements may have sounded to that "mass of men" as they led their lives of desperation? As they received a type of credit for not having taken their own lives?
We don't know how our neighbor's statements sounded to the masses of his own time. That said, we've thought of these statements in the past few days as we've reviewed the way the elites of Our Own Blue Tribe are conducting themselves in public.
"In wildness is the preservation of the world," our neighbor once said. Unfortunately, in cluelessness is its possible termination.
Each morning this week, often as we peruse the devolving on-line version of the Washington Post, we've been stunned by the overpowering dumbness. We refer to the dumbness which currently sits in the saddle and rides the humankind which almost seems to be working, around the clock, to ensure that Trumpism triumphs.
To our ear, the cluelessness of our current blue elite is widespread and ever-present. For those who wonder how a person like Trump could possibly have received so many votes, we'll only say that the answer may be easier to see for those who are willing to look.
To our ear, the cluelessness to which we refer is cluelessness all the way down. Each day, it's more haughty and more potent, and we'll guess it's more counterproductive.
After perusing the on-line Post and a few of Our Town's other journals, we've been finding it hard to proceed with the project we've been planning. We'd planned to proceed with the reading of a "most important" book—a book whose author said this in his preface:
"I should have liked to produce a good book. That has not come about."
After perusing Our Town's journals, we keep finding it impossible to proceed with that task.
A number of years ago, we began quoting Norman O. Brown from the street-fighting 1960s. Brown was very hot at the time. At one point, he offered this:
BROWN (1966): I sometimes think I see that societies originate in the discovery of some secret, some mystery; and end in exhaustion when there is no longer any secret, when the mystery has been divulged, that is to say profaned...And so there comes a time—I believe we are in such a time—when civilization has to be renewed by the discovery of some new mysteries, by the undemocratic but sovereign power of the imagination, by the undemocratic power which makes poets the unacknowledged legislators of all mankind, the power which makes all things new.
We can't say that we understand what Brown was talking about in that passage. That said, he plainly was saying this:
Absent the discovery of "new mysteries," he said we might be at the point when our society is going to "end in exhaustion." Reading the efforts of Our Town's thought leaders, we keep suspecting that Brown, a classicist by training, may have had it right.
About a decade ago, this statement began showing up in our dreams, and so we began to cite it. We don't think it's ever been so clear that those new mysteries haven't been discovered, and most likely aren't going to be.
In wildness is the preservation of the world? Possibly so, but in tribal cluelessness may lie a society's termination.
We'll try to return to our project next week. Perhaps we need to stop perusing Our Blue Town's journals in the morning. To our ear, the cluelessness we keep encountering in those places is making a mockery of everything else. It's newly surprising each day.
Why aren't we posting examples today? Simple! We can hear the tribals responding! We know what the tribals will say!
As The Others show the world every day, there's no way to talk a true believer out of a tribal true belief. Also, we can hear the experts and scholars as they keep telling us this:
As humans, we're wired to produce tribal dogmas as we make our way towards our latest war. And when we blue voters produce our own (unintelligent) dogmas, we harden The Others in theirs.
In fairness, our brains are wired this way, or so the top experts have said. It's painful to read the present-day Post. To our ear, the tribal dumbness being churned within Our Town just keeps getting worse and worse.
The tribal dumbness, how it burns! Their tribal dumbness, and ours!