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Posts Tagged ‘Thoreau

“And then the water ran out, and they fell back, realizing too late that their prosperity was borrowed, and there would be no more coming”*…

 

lost city

Remnants of the ancient city of Cahokia, in what’s now southern Illinois

 

Not far from my grandmother’s house is a ghost city. At Angel Mounds on the Ohio river about eight miles southeast of Evansville, there are a few visible earthworks and a reconstructed wattle-and-daub barrier. There is almost nothing left of the people who build these mounds; in a final insulting erasure, the site is now named after the white settler family who most recently farmed the land.

There are traces of other dead villages along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, mounds scattered from present-day Indiana to Arkansas and Alabama. In southern Illinois, a few miles from the Missouri border, hidden among empty corn and soy fields, is the center of that dead civilization’s gravity: the lost city of Cahokia.

Cahokia was larger than London, centrally planned, the Manhattan of its day. Most people there would have come from somewhere else. There were defensive foundations, playing fields, and a magnificent temple. There would have been sacred ceremonies and salacious gossip. It must have been a very exciting place to live.

And then, relatively abruptly, it ceased to exist. We know of the city only because of the physical traces left behind. Few stories of Cahokia have survived; it disappeared from oral tradition, as if whatever happened to it is best forgotten. The archaeological record shows traces of the desperation and bloodshed that almost always accompany great upheavals: skeletons with bound hands, pits full of strangled young women.

The North American Drought Atlas, a historical record of climate conditions pieced together from the rings of old trees, provides a hint of what might have happened. The tenth century CE, when the Cahokia civilization would have developed, marked a distinct shift in the regional climate from persistent drought to rainier conditions more suitable for agriculture, centralization, and civilization.

But the good times were not to last…

Some people say “the climate has changed before,” as though that should be reassuring. It’s not: “Lost Cities and Climate Change.”

See also:  “A Quarter of Humanity Faces Looming Water Crises” and “What kind of climate change coverage do you read in the news? It depends on whether you live in a rich country or a poor one.”

* “Thanks to the centrifugal pump, places like Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas had thrown on the garments of fertility for a century, pretending to greenery and growth as they mined glacial water from ten-thousand-year-old aquifers. They’d played dress-up-in-green and pretended it could last forever. They’d pumped up the Ice Age and spread it across the land, and for a while they’d turned their dry lands lush. Cotton, wheat, corn, soybeans — vast green acreages, all because someone could get a pump going. Those places had dreamed of being different from what they were. They’d had aspirations. And then the water ran out, and they fell back, realizing too late that their prosperity was borrowed, and there would be no more coming.”
Paolo Bacigalupi, The Water Knife (a powerful novel)

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As we face facts, we might recall that it was on this date in 1854 that Ticknor & Fields published transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau’s reflection on simple living in natural surroundings, Walden; or, Life in the Woods.

220px-Walden_Thoreau source

 

Written by LW

August 9, 2019 at 1:01 am

“We need the tonic of wildness”*…

 

Thwack. Thwack. Thwack. Thwp. Thwp. Thwack. The sound of stone striking wood. Rustling leaves. A loud crack as a tree falls. A dry whirring of insects. Further off, a monkey shrieks. ShhptShhpt. Water purls over stones in a brook; the heavy pitter-patter of rain taps the forest floor.

These are the sounds of primitive technology. Primitive Technology: an oxymoron, perhaps a logical impossibility, a collision of two buzzwords, and one of the most arresting (and unexpectedly popular) channels on YouTube.

Primitive Technology was created two years ago by a man in Queensland, Australia, who builds huts, weapons, and tools using only naturally occurring materials. In all of his five- to ten-minute videos, the man wears only navy blue shorts, rarely looks at the camera, and never speaks…

An appreciation of Primitive Technology, a You Tube series the episodes in which have garnered as many as 46 million views each: “Walden for the YouTube Age.”

[TotH to @kevin2kelly, who suggested that I check it out]

* Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

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As we appreciate apocatastasis, we might recall that it was on this date in 1909 that The Futurist Manifesto (download it here) was first published (in the French periodical Le Figaro).  The creation of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti– who authored the manifesto, used his private fortune to publish it, then recruited artists to his banner– Futurism paved the way for Dada and Surrealism… and suggested some pretty evocative imagery to the likes of Fritz Lang…

a still from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis

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Written by LW

February 20, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition”*…

 

 

school

One quibbles with Jacques Barzun, the author of this post’s title quote, at one’s peril.  Still, as Lapham’s Quarterly points out, disrespect, even disdain for formal education has a long history.  In this season of school’s end, LQ reaches back to the 17th Century for an example: an excerpt from Nicholas Breton’s The Court and Country, in which the then-popular author argues that on-the-job training, in the fields where husbands know their wives and farmers know their cattle, is all the learning anyone needs:

Now for learning, what your neede is thereof I know not, but with us, this is all we goe to schoole for: to read common Prayers at Church and set downe common prices at Markets; write a Letter and make a Bond; set downe the day of our Births, our Marriage Day, and make our Wills when we are sicke for the disposing of our goods when we are dead. These are the chiefe matters that wemeddle with, and we find enough to trouble our heads withal. For if the fathers knowe their owne children, wives their owne husbands from other men, maydens keep their by-your-leaves from subtle batchelors, Farmers know their cattle by the heads, and Sheepheards know their sheepe by the brand, what more learning have we need of but that experience will teach us without booke? We can learne to plough and harrow, sow and reape, plant and prune, thrash and fanne, winnow and grinde, brue and bake, and all without booke; and these are our chiefe businesses in the Country, except we be Jury men to hang a theefe, or speake truth in a man’s right, which conscience & experience will teach us with a little learning. Then what should we study for, except it were to talke with the man in the Moone about the course of the Starres?

* Jacques Barzun

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As we celebrate the onset of summer, we might send back-to-nature birthday greetings to Ralph Waldo Emerson; he was born on this date in 1803.  The essayist (“Nature,” “Self-Reliance,” et al.), lecturer, and poet who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century, he was one of the linchpins of the American romantic movement, and friend and mentor to Henry David Thoreau.

220px-Ralph_Waldo_Emerson_ca1857_retouched source

 

Written by LW

May 25, 2016 at 1:01 am

If it wasn’t already obvious…

… it’s not a good idea to have a “fish pedicure.”

Fish pedicures aren’t just a bizarre beauty ritual with shady animal-welfare considerations, they’re also downright dangerous to your health, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On Wednesday, the federal agency published a report by U.K.’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science, which examined the types of bacteria associated with Garra rufa, an inch-long toothless carp that nibbles away at dead skin. Native to Southeast Asia, the so-called “doctor fish” soared in popularity in 2008, when salons across the nation began offering them as an alternative to razors for scraping away calluses.

More at Ecouterre.

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As we put pescatorial pleasures aside, we might send transcendent birthday wishes to Henry David Thoreau; he was born on this date in 1817.  An author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic,surveyor, and historian, Thoreau was a leading Transcendentalist.  He is probably best remembered for his books Walden (a reflection on simple living in the natural surroundings of a rural pond– into which he did not dip his toes in the hope of treating his calluses) and Civil Disobedience (a book of practical moral philosophy that inspired Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and many others).

“Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after”

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Written by LW

July 12, 2012 at 6:36 am

Just Say “Yes!”…

Prohibited prose has been a continuing theme here at (R)D:  c.f., e.g., “And the ban played on…,” “Fahrenheit 451…,” “Got you covered…,” “If we do not meet with agreeable things, we shall at least meet with something new…,” et. al.

Well it’s that time again; it’s National Banned Books Week.  What better time to dip into a taboo title?

Lord knows, the options are plentiful:  Darwin’s Origin of the Species, Thoreau’s On the Duty of Civil Obedience, Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland…  Indeed, according to the Office for Intellectual Freedom, at least 46 of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century have been the target of ban attempts.  (See the American Library Association’s list of Challenged Classics here.)  For an even longer (and older) list, consult the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (List of Prohibited Books), the list of publications prohibited by the Catholic Church (from 1559 until the practice was halted in 1969).

Many, many of them are available via Project Gutenberg and/or as free downloads through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, et al.

Ladies and Gentlemen, to your easy chairs!

As we turn the page, we might recall that it was on this date in 1892 that Joshua Pusey patented the “flexible match”; he then sold his patent to the Diamond Match Trust (which he joined, as patent attorney)– and his design became the first mass-produced paper matchbook.

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Hallelujah!…

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Back in 1972, your correspondent spent a summer working working as a utility infielder at WBTV, the Charlotte CBS affiliate.  In those distant days, local stations did original public affairs programming of all sorts, including local documentaries (that weren’t simply “service” programs promoting tourism, shopping, or dining out); for instance, your correspondent recorded the audio for the first documentary made on the now-legendary Blue Grass conclave, The Union Grove Fiddlers Convention.

But the most memorable shoot of that summer was a documentary on Charles Keyes, The Parson of the Hills.  Keyes, an itinerant preacher for 71 of the 76 years that he lived (he passed away in 1996), ministered to the poor of the North Carolina Appalachians.  His flock was scattered in such out-of-the-way places that he was, for many, the only “outsider” they knew and trusted… and so, as we accompanied him, filming his “rounds,” we saw corners of America that were then effectively as remote and untouched as as the most hidden corners of the Brazilian rain forest.

Among the extraordinary things we saw, probably the most striking was the snake handling service to which Keyes led us– one he attended as an unofficial social worker, not an officiant. Since the early 20th Century,  snake handling has been a feature of Pentecostal worship in a small number of Appalachian congregations which take the Bible literally…

And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:17-18)

Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:19)

Snake handling survives, but it’s dwindling.  So it’s a gift that Oregon-based photographer Hunter Barnes, who had spent time documenting “Rednecks,” turned his lens to create “A Testimony of Serpent Handling.”

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Barnes posted his project on Kickstarter, where he successfully raised the funds he needed to finish– and where readers will find a fascinating video explaining and illustrating the project.

As we contemplate the manifold manifestations of faith, we might send the simplest of birthday greetings to writer, philosopher, and naturalist Henry David Thoreau; he was born on this date in 1817.  From 1845 to 1847, Thoreau lived in a small cabin on the banks of Walden Pond, a small lake near Concord, Massachusetts.  Striving to “simplify, simplify,” he strictly limited his expenditures, his possessions, and his contact with others, intending “to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach.”

Thoreau became a pillar of New England Transcendentalism, embracing and exemplifying the movement’s belief in the universality of creation and the primacy of personal insight and experience.  Perhaps best remembered for his advocacy of simple, principled living, his writings on the relationship between humans and the environment also helped define the nature essay.

source: Library of Congress

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