(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Walden

“How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”*…

Henriette Browne, A Girl Writing; The Pet Goldfinch, ca. 1874

Montaigne would be amused…

The first quarter of the twenty-first century has been an uneasy time of rupture and anxiety, filled with historic challenges and opportunities. In that close to twenty-five-year span, the United States witnessed the ominous opening shot of September 11, followed by the seemingly unending Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the effort to control HIV/AIDS, the 2008 recession, the election of the first African American president, the legalization of same-sex marriage, the contentious reign of Donald Trump, the stepped-up restriction of immigrants, the #MeToo movement, Black Lives Matter, and the coronavirus pandemic, just to name a few major events. Intriguingly, the essay has blossomed during this time, in what many would deem an exceptionally good period for literary nonfiction—if not a golden one, then at least a silver: I think we can agree that there has been a remarkable outpouring of new and older voices responding to this perplexing moment in a form uniquely amenable to the processing of uncertainty.

When the century began, essays were considered box office poison; editors would sometimes disguise collections of the stuff by packaging them as theme-driven memoirs. All that has changed: a generation of younger readers has embraced the essay form and made their favorite authors into best sellers. We could speculate on the reasons for this growing popularity—the hunger for humane, authentic voices trying to get at least a partial grip on the truth in the face of so much political mendacity and information overload; the convenient, bite-size nature of essays that require no excessive time commitment; the rise of identity politics and its promotion of eloquent spokespersons. Rather than trying to figure out why it’s happening, what’s important is to chart the high points of this resurgence, and to account for the range of styles, subgenres, experimental approaches, and moral positions that characterize the contemporary American essay…

Read “The Silver Age of Essays,” an excerpt from Phillip Lopate‘s introduction to a new collection, The Contemporary American Essay; via @parisreview.

* E. M. Forster

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As we praise perceptive prose, 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... essentially a long essay.

220px-Walden_Thoreau

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 9, 2021 at 1:00 am

“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 (Roughly) Daily

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 (Roughly) Daily

February 20, 2018 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 (Roughly) Daily

July 12, 2012 at 6:36 am

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