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July 06, 2005

Thoreau on blogging

"Society is commonly too cheap. We meet at very short intervals, not having had time to acquire any new value for each other. We meet at meals three times a day, and give each other a new taste of that old musty cheese that we are. We have had to agree on a certain set of rules, called etiquette and politeness, to make this frequent meeting tolerable and that we need not come to open war. We meet at the post-office, and at the sociable, and about the fireside every night; we live thick and are in each other's way, and stumble over one another, and I think that we thus lose some respect for one another. Certainly less frequency would suffice for all important and hearty communications."

- Walden, Chapter 5

Posted by Chris Clarke at July 6, 2005 12:30 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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Did he write those words while he was going home to his mother every night for dinner? To me that revelation took away any impact that Walden might have had.

Posted by: Paul Tomblin at July 6, 2005 01:59 PM
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Yep. And Ed Abbey had a wife and kid when he wrote Desert Solitaire.

Like you, Paul, I spend an increasing amount of my time arguing with people who live in their mothers' basements, so my bar has been pretty well lowered.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at July 6, 2005 03:10 PM
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I didn't know that about Abbey. Another illusion ruined.

Posted by: Paul Tomblin at July 6, 2005 03:19 PM
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from his journal:

"Why can we not oftener refresh one another with original thoughts? If the fragrance of the dicksonia fern is so grateful and suggestive to us, how much more refreshing and encouraging--re-creating--would be fresh and fragrant thoughts communicated to us fresh from a man's experience and life! I want none of his pity, not sympathy, in the common sense, but that he should emit and communicate to me his essential fragrance, that he should not be forever repenting and going to church (when not otherwise sinning), but, as it were, going a-huckleberrying in the fields of thought, and enrich all the world with his visions and his joys."

Posted by: lt at July 6, 2005 04:50 PM
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That quote still has a special place in my heart. I first came across it as a 10-year-old girl sharing a bedroom with one 15-year-old and one 2-year-old brother with 4 other family members and a dog within spitting distance. It was long before I ever read Walden, but it appeared in Dear Enemy, a terrific epistolary young adult novel by a kinswoman of Mark Twain.

Posted by: CMD at July 6, 2005 04:59 PM
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If I must be an old musty cheese, then please let it be the stinkiest one on the platter that no one dare goes near.

Posted by: Trix at July 6, 2005 06:51 PM
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I've enjoyed the word "epistolary" for some time now, and have often thought we should mark the advent of, first, email, and more lately, blogs, as the beginning of the neo-epistolary age. Letter writing has a long and honorable history, and was nearly made obsolete by the telephone, but it seems to be enjoying a renaissance these days. Of course, texting might still be considered sub-epistolary in quality.

Posted by: Mike Lerch at July 6, 2005 06:52 PM
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I'd say Thoreau pretty much sums it up.

Posted by: Roxanne at July 6, 2005 08:01 PM
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I suppose now that my wife, my kid and I have sold the house and are moving into my mother's basement, the comparisons to Thoreau & Abbey are going to start pouring in.

Posted by: tost at July 6, 2005 08:45 PM
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Reminds me of a quote from Sartre: "Hell is other people."

I don't agree with it, though at one time I would have.

Posted by: Robert at July 7, 2005 05:47 AM
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Finally, a justification for my erratically sporadic posting. I'm shooting for "important and hearty communications." And more poop jokes.

Posted by: corndog at July 7, 2005 06:57 AM
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Even more: "We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate. Either is in such a predicament as the man who was earnest to be introduced to a distinguished deaf woman, but when he was presented, and one end of her ear trumpet was put into his hand, had nothing to say."

No offense, Paul, but I think the living-too-close-to-home argument misunderstands what the Walden experiment was about. He wasn't a purist, living off the land; and despite the way he is portrayed today, he was a very sociable person in many ways (albeit cranky as hell, and the biggest prude in history).

Posted by: gribley at July 7, 2005 09:37 AM
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Chris, are you aware of The Blog of Henry David Thoreau? Great stuff.

Posted by: Matt at July 8, 2005 10:43 AM
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