Monday, August 11, 2008

Other Times and Ways (Fred Reed)

In the spirit of Henry David Thoreau's Walden, Fred Reed yearns for a bit of peace and quiet, which is nearly impossible to find in today's world:

When I ponder our curiously unbalanced civilization, able to put golf carts on Mars but unable to equal the verse of muddy Elizabethan London, I wonder why we are as we are. In all things technological the United States is magnificent, the Athens of solid-state physics. Yet the great orchestras die unlistened to, we have no Shakespeare or Dante nor notion why we might want them, and religious expression grows mute, or crabbed and hostile. Why?

I think the answer is that our surroundings determine not just what we think, but what we can think. We live in cities urban but not urbane, among screaming sirens, in air grayed by exhaust and wracked by the blattings of buses. The complaint is not invalid for being trite. I cannot imagine a Whitman composing in a shopping mall.

The rush and complexity of everything take their toll. As a people we might well be called The Unrelaxed. And, therefore, the Uncontemplative.

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