Friday, April 22, 2011

`My Normal Habits of Reading, Thinking and Writing'

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.”


Anonymous said...

Best to control your understandable impulse to burn things in honour of Earth Day; you'd just end up in a re-education camp in the Cascades. JVS

Anonymous said...

Earth Day was not even a black cloud on the horizon when I was in fourth grade. It is a day for virtucrats, while the rest of us cower in the corner.

"A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business." Eric Hoffer