Friday, August 19, 2016

Joseph Wood Krutch: drawing the line, sorta, kinda

Joseph Wood Krutch
The Twelve Seasons

This summer I have been looking again at Paramecia and Lacrimaria and Opalina, as well as at the flora amidst which they live.  But I do not know what kind of relation I have with them or just how I feel toward them.  I marvel and I admire.  They are beautiful.  They are, quite literally, lovely.  But in what sense do or can I love them?  After I have peered for a while at a drop of water, I wipe it off with a piece of tissue and put it into a wastebasket.  I should not be telling the truth if I said that I feel much compunction at such wanton killing.  Why don't I? Is it simply because responsibility cannot bridge the gap of that discontinuity established by nothing but size?  Do I, like my woman friend, doubt that the protozoa are real?

-- Joseph Wood Krutch --
from  "July" in The Twelve Seasons

Paramecia, Lacrimaria, and Opalina are organisms visible only with the aid of a microscope.


  1. Killing? That is the issue, isn't it. Where do we draw the line? What may we kill, and what must we never kill? He presents the micro as a way of considering the macro. That's my view.

  2. R.T.,

    Could be. He just killed a large number of microorganisms when he dried off that lens. I doubt if anyone would be concerned. I know I wouldn't. But, disposing of a large number of larger furry critters like that--should that be treated the same way? I think he's asking at what point should we be concerned about killing off large numbers of living beings?

    Where would you draw the line?

  3. it's a fact that humans and other earthly critters live off of each other... so i should say species viability is a limit; if they become scarce, leave them alone... who was it said: life is real, life is earnest... unfortunately...

  4. Mudpuddle,

    That was Longfellow. It's from the second stanza of his "A Psalm of Life." Here is a link to the complete poem.

    That is the most striking feature of life here--survival means the death of another, whether it is by direct killing of another or indirectly through depriving something else of sun or water or living space.

    Those whose beliefs include a merciful or compassionate or loving deity have a strange definition of mercy or compassion or love.

    1. that's certainly the truth...

    2. Mudpuddle,

      So it seems to me, the paradox of existence here.