Friday, August 19, 2011

Joseph Wood Krutch: more from Baja California

Once again Joseph Wood Krutch opposes the more traditional attitude and, I must admit, makes some interesting points while doing so.

Too long a view in either time or space makes people miss a great deal that is close at hand, and it is my experience that those who are quickly bored in the country are usually those who lack "the microscopic eye," those to whom "nature" means only "scenery," and "scenery" means only "views." Charles Lamb once declared that he would not much care if he never saw another mountain, and, while I would not by any means go so far, I think I know what he meant. To know nature only that way is like knowing a city only by its skyline. To feel the life of either city or country, one must be actually in it, aware of the excitement and variety of individual lives. People are often blamed because they cannot see the wood for the trees, but that does not seem to me so bad as not seeing trees for the wood.

Several Eastern philosophies talk about mindfulness, which, roughly speaking, means living in the present. Too many people, according to Buddhists and Taoists, spend too much time going over the past and worrying about the future. Instead, we should focus on the present, we should live now, and we should be aware of what we are now doing and where we are now.

"When eating a peach, eat the peach."


  1. Fred,

    I love your quote:

    "When eating a peach, eat the peach."

    What do you think about todays world, where so many people multitask all the time? Do you feel they are missing out on this very idea? What do they lose - if anything - in all of their "efficiency"?

  2. Cheryl,

    Thoreau said that most people live lives of quiet desperation while Pascal, more than a hundred years before Thoreau, said that just about everything we do is to distract ourselves from our situation.

    I think we need time for quiet reflection to get to know ourselves, as Krutch says in another part of this work. The Greeks said, Know thyself. That's not happening today.

    We also need free time to consider the many political and social issues facing us today. Many just follow a particular bandwagon without thinking about it because they don't have the time.

    Sometimes I feel that the greatest fear facing people today is the fear of quiet isolation in which they are forced back upon themselves.

    And, the multitaskers also miss out on a deep appreciation of their immediate environment: the people, plants, animals, human structures.

  3. Fred,

    "I think we need time for quiet reflection to get to know ourselves, as Krutch says in another part of this work. The Greeks said, Know thyself. That's not happening today."

    This made me think of a post on a Christian blog that I read. It was about being an introvert ( more inwardly focused) and a worship leader in an evangelical Christian church:

    "I loved facilitating more open, quiet spaces for people to pray, repent, and receive. I think this is important for an increasingly restless, overstimulated generation. According to Isaiah 30:15, “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.’” Perhaps we are shaped as introverted worship leaders so that we might be used to facilitate more times of repentance, rest, quietness and trust in our congregational times together."

    So you see, the problem is everywhere, even in the Christian church.

  4. Cheryl,

    LaoTzu: "The greatest revelation is stillness."

    Have you ever read a story or watched a film in which a character--distraught, upset, confused, bewildered, or frightened--walks by a church, goes inside to sit quietly in the silence, and eventually leaves feeling better, even if only for a short time?

    What I find most interesting is that in the great majority or cases, there are no rituals or ceremonies going on, the person just sits there in the quiet.