Reflections of a Misplaced Pagan
Somebody Screwed Up the Chronology
March 4, 2007
Last night the wind blew steady and cool from over the lake, though spring is upon us. A full moon cast sharp moon shadows over the jungled tangle that is our garden. We have a new pup, a street dog that my daughter persuaded us to adopt. She whuffled in the undergrowth as dogs ought, all curiosity and pointed ears. Beyond the stone wall the hills loomed huge and close. They glowed in the radiance like tidal waves from the end of the world.
It was lovely, but it won’t last. Already visitation with the moon is possible only late at night. Then the young bucks of the town have ceased driving about with rap music on oversized speakers. A new house goes up closer to the hills. In a few years there will be no wildness. There will be sirens and street lights and motors.
Somehow this is not where I belong, though mysteriously I am here anyway. I seem to have missed my proper century by a couple of millennia. I don’t understand life today, have little in common with the people who shape it. To me humanity, like government, is best when there is least of it.
But in this I am at odds with the times. I do not care about gross national product or the terrible need to manufacture things that could not be sold without force-feed advertising. Everywhere I read that we must have economic growth. Why, I wonder? Do we not have enough? I don’t belong here.
I remember the southwestern deserts when I crossed them with my parents as a child, great sprawling silences with the saguaro standing, arms uplifted to an immense sky, as if waiting for something. The roads were narrow then, people scarce. Later I hitchhiked the same roads become interstates, intrusions on the landscape, carrying people in air-conditioned isolation who cared nothing for those gorgeous wastes. Now, everywhere, suburbs creep outward and homogenized civilization sprouts like mold.
Yes, I understand that we must keep the population growing so that the economy may expand. We must breed lest the housing industry suffer, and we must build roads so that the highway industry may prosper. Without roads there would be no new suburbs and no malls and no people to buy things. If the population falls we must import Mexicans or North Africans or somebody because the purpose of a country is to build suburbs. We must breed so that the white race will not go extinct under the onrushing Chinese tide. I know.
No doubt something is wrong with me. I do not greatly care whether the white race continues, though I suspect it will, and I would like to see the economy shrink. I do not belong here.
One night years ago I dove off Belize on coral luxuriant with sleeping fish and things hunting. The sea at night is a magnificent place. An otherworldly silence reigns in the depths, sometimes broken by the click of shrimp. To hang almost motionless in warm water, rising and falling with your breath, with nothing but blackness all around except in the beam of a dive light, watching an arrow crab stalking redly about in the hollow of a barrel sponge—this always seems to me a sort of privilege, and something to be preserved. The things that live in the ocean lead their own strange lives. It is their ocean, not mine. They were here before we were.
The reefs too are dying, and will die—though not so much in Belize yet. In Florida the mangroves, where fish breed, disappear, so that water-front suburbs can be built, which helps the economy grow. The necessity of this is clear. The population must increase, so that we can keep up with the Chinese and save the white race, and purely coincidentally the builders need customers. I understand. I do not like it.
I have never seen a fish that did not seem more worthy than a developer of real-estate. Quite true: I am wrong-headed, and a wretched Green, and against America and progress and freedom. So be it.
Recently I drove with friends from Washington up through rural Maryland, if so it any longer can be called, and into Pennsylvania. I hadn’t been there for a few years. The trip was disheartening. In pretty countryside the subdivisions grew, stamped-out plots of pricey and shoddily built boxes for the shelter of televisions. From these people will commute long distances to Washington. Perhaps they deserve it.
I understand that people want these things. Still, soon there will be nothing but ugliness. Only crackpots and eco-terrorists will notice, I suppose. The eyesore is not an economically recognized entity, whereas the building of them provides jobs and profits and helps us fend off the Chinese. Build we will.
So many pretty little towns there are in the region, Harpers Ferry, Boiling Springs, Gettysburg. Just outside, the shopping centers pop up, subdivisions with names like Brookdale Manors and Manor Brook Dales. Tourism has made Harpers Ferry into a theme park; you have to park outside and enter the town on a bus with a recording that tells you things you hadn’t asked about.
Something is wrong with me. I cannot understand why people don’t keep their numbers down and live in delightful towns like Boiling Springs. I do not understand economic growth. I for one, and I sometimes think I am the only one, am content with books, music, horses, dogs, fishing, the internet, and broad countryside where one may enjoy the wind and rain. I do not want more of what I don’t want any of at all.
Perhaps you are a believer in headlong progress and growth and more of this and more of that and more of everything. If so, please do not write to tell me that I am a threat to whatever it is I am a threat to. I am not. I am just a misplaced man grumbling to himself. You have won. The hell with it.
I might have preferred Greek times, when humanity was a small speck in a large world. Or perhaps Rome of the first century, with more order but man still not a spreading uncontrolled blight. Those horrible mid-eastern religions had not yet raised their grim and censorious heads, and one might still worship a sacred grove, or the statue of a goddess, or the moon. Capri was yet a lovely place, with misted peaks on a blue bay, not yet carpeted in tour buses and fat people from Rhode Island.
Meanwhile for a few hours in the night I listen to the wind and still see
stars, though soon progress will come and they will dim in the smoke.