Monday, July 29, 2013

`A Wise Man Will Attend to Each One's Report'

Thoreau in his journal for July 29, 1857: 

“I am interested in an indistinct prospect, a distant view, a mere suggestion often, revealing an almost wholly new world to me. I rejoice to get, and am apt to present, a new view. But I find it impossible to present my view to most people.” 

Unlike Thoreau, I’ve never fancied myself a pioneer, an explorer of the new except when it’s already old. Novelty for its own sake is overrated, luring the impressionable and easily impressed. Thoreau is at least disingenuous when he complains of the impossibility of presenting his “view.” That’s almost all he ever did, even in the privacy of his journal. It’s said a fellow citizen of Concord met Henry on the street and asked how he was doing, and Henry told him, in excrutiating detail, ever the town scold, the cranky Yankee. No mere civility for Henry. 

“In effect, it would seem that they do not wish to take a new view in any case. Heat lightning flashes, which reveal a distant horizon to our twilight eyes. But my fellows simply assert that it is not broad day, which everybody knows, and fail to perceive the phenomenon at all. I am willing to pass for a fool in my often desperate, perhaps foolish, efforts to persuade them to lift the veil from off the possible and future, which they hold down with both their hands, before their eyes.” 

Henry the haranguer, self-appointed enlightener of the benighted masses, the meddler and know-it-all adolescent. The type today is epidemic. 

“The most valuable communication or news consists of hints and suggestions. When a truth comes to be known and accepted, it begins to be bad taste to repeat it. Every individual constitution is a probe employed in a new direction, and a wise man will attend to each one’s report.” 

The least important thing I can know about you is your opinion. Tell me what you know and what you do, and for most of us that won’t take long.

No comments: