The family is a good institution because it is uncongenial. The men and women who, for good reasons and bad, revolt against the family, are, for good reasons and bad, revolting against mankind. Aunt Elizabeth is unreasonable, like mankind. Papa is excitable, like mankind. Our younger brother is mischievous, like mankind. Grandpapa is stupid, like the world; he is old, like the world.
Life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby. To suffer is not enough. We also need to be in touch with the wonders of life. They are within us and all around us, everywhere, any time. Does it require a special effort to enjoy the blue sky? Do we have to practice to be able to enjoy it? No, we just enjoy it. We don’t need to travel to China in order to enjoy the sky.
There must be many creative things one can do or statements one can make with a million signatures, but the most important moment in the life of a signature may be just when it is signed and the most important effect, however infinitesimal, may be on the signer. Today some people signed their names to a petition calling for nothing less than global nuclear disarmament, and joined their names with hundreds of thousands of others. Even if they turn right around and “forget” about it, does that render it an insignificant act? I don’t know, but I doubt it.
Thoreau And The Meaning Of Work
More than any other commonplace notion, Thoreau attacked (largely through satire) his fellows’ commonplace notions about work. “Economy” is the first and largest chapter of Walden, and Thoreau gives the subject such primary consideration because he saw work consuming people’s lives before they had much of a chance to live, before they had enough time to reflect on the relationship of work to life for themselves. To Thoreau, the problem of finding one’s right work and integrating it into other proper demands on one’s life was a challenge that needed to be tackled early and with great energy if young adults weren’t going to step blindly into traps that were indeed much easier to step into than to get out of.
Voluntary simplicity has gained popularity since the late Sixties. Of course the idea is at least as old as the first religions, but nowadays voluntary simplicity is not practiced for overtly religious reasons. A cynic might say that a sense of reparation for damages done is driving some to practice a new spirit of self-denial. It touches most strongly, after all, the descendants of the adventurous, progressive pioneers from Western Europe who invaded this country a few centuries ago. In any case, exploitation is a touchstone by which many of us gauge our use of toilet paper, gasoline, rubber, washing machines, nylon, coffee, newspaper and on and on.
The voice is unmistakable. At the first intonation, the first rolling syllable, Swain wakes, feeling the murmuring life of each of a million cells. Each of them all at once. He feels the line where his two lips touch, the fingers of his left hand pressed against his leg, the spears of wet grass against the flat soles of his feet, the gleaming half-circles of tears that stand in his eyes. His own bone marrow hums inside him like colonies of bees. He feels the breath pouring in and out of him, through the damp, red passages of his skull. Then in the slow way that fireworks die, the knowledge fades. He is left again with his surfaces and the usual vague darkness within. He turns back around to see if Julie has heard.