Please don’t tell me what I can live without. I’ve already pared away most inessentials, and it’s none of your business anyway. Earth-Day nagging moves me to burn tires and Gary Snyder books in the front yard. On Thursday, a fourth-grader lectured me on the evils of 100-watt light bulbs. What started forty-one years ago as a morally sanctioned excuse for playing hooky has turned into state-imposed gospel. Kids in my school can’t read but they can condemn those who won’t use spiral-shaped light bulbs that cause blindness.
A buddy and I attended an observance of the first Earth Day in 1970. We listened to Lawrence Ferlinghetti preach from the pulpit of a church in downtown Cleveland. I remember nothing of what he said, but the rock-concert frenzy of his audience put me off crowds and collectives for good. Bill Vallicella, the Maverick Philosopher, quotes a passage by Eric Hoffer that makes Earth Day superfluous:
“I need little to be contented. Two meals a day, tobacco, books that hold my interest, and a little writing each day. This to me is a full life.”
Full to overflowing, as I don’t smoke. If you’re reading “books that hold my interest” – say, Montaigne – you’re unlikely to pester the sovereign souls who share your world, and more likely to uphold the most precious of rights: the right to be left alone. I’m reminded of something Helen Pinkerton wrote me after her recent move to a new apartment:
“If all goes well, I hope that I shall have settled down into my new `den’ (better to call it library) and be more than willing to return to my normal habits of reading, thinking and writing.”