March 26th, 2017
Robert Adams writing about the loss of places of solitude and quiet: "developers have unbalanced the ecology and made much of the geography ugly . . . When I was fifteen . . . I was hired . . . to help take campers on horse pack trips through Rock Mountain National Park. The landscapes I saw . . . were for me formative . . . partly because of the hushed isolation in which we encountered them: it was unusual to meet anyone at all . . . for days at a time. Twenty years later . . . it had become unusual to follow a major trail for more than five or ten minutes . . . without meeting long lines of hikers . . . I discovered eventually that there was more privacy in City Park in the middle of Denver than in walking the high peaks . . . Admittedly not everything dies outright by crowding. What almost always perishes, though, is a loveliness that sustains our desire for life to go on and on."
And he writes in response to this: "Part of our disillusionment is a feeling common to many people at any time. Keats expressed it: 'To think is to be full of sorrow.'
Philosophers and writers have sometimes said we have to do without hope . . . On the evidence, however, hope is necessary to the survival of what makes us human. Without hope we lapse into ruthlessness or torpor; the exercise of nearly every virtue we treasure in people—love, reason, imagination—depends ultimately for its motivation on hope. We know that our actions come to little, but our identity a we want it defined is contingent on the survival of hope."
I was struck by what he says because I have had similar experiences, and experienced similar disillusionment and sorrow (as have many others right now with the amoral and spiritually bankrupt situation we find ourselves in politically and economically). And I know too the experience of being in a supposed place of solitude and quiet (for instance, last summer in Mount Rainier National Park) and finding more quiet in a little park in the middle of downtown St Petersburg. There are days when hope seems naive . . . but as he suggests, nonetheless necessary . . .
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