Sunday, February 9, 2014

Walden Street

Sometimes, when I think of how
little that any reading has af-
fected my life, I don't so much
search my memory for exceptions
as run into them in the street.
When I can't tell a bannister
from a bike rack, from a riot
barricade, I know I can count
on the street to provide the
defining distance to sort this
as acquired in the reading that
we all once had to do, of Henry
David Thoreau. To the Greeks'
unanswerable perception of the
validity of distance to portray
form, he brought the argument
of its necessity to furnish con-
text, and portray meaning. What
made it fundamentally unforget-
table, was that he argued this
in terms of human relations, to
give framing to our dialogues.
Was there a more pressing ques-
tion when we first read Walden,
than how to extract that magic?

This principle, so obvious on the
stage, and so pressing in every-
day life, never loses resonance
of its original source. In later
education - in the US, that is -
it was impressive to find, how
pervasively Thoreau's discovery
remained acutely attributable, in
the minds of new friends from all
over the country. Without having
to mention it, it would be appar-
ent as we gauged our distances in
dialogue, we were conscious of a
scruple which arises in our being,
with a footnote that we all accept. 

Henry David Thoreau
  Life in the Woods

Eric Weiss

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