Archive - Jan 29, 2013

Cultural Climate Change

Was it a Facebook post or something else that got me thinking about The Hudson River School? I'm not sure. Yet these old images of the American wilderness have been dancing in my mind. I wander around online and read about manifest destiny and think about rugged American individualism. Pushing west until the Pacific Ocean, and then what? My mind stops briefly at Emerson and then de Tocqueville.

Today, I went to a United Way event. They have a 'Tocqueville Society Philanthropy Award'. These seem to me to be the heirs of manifest destiny and The Hudson School. What was the cultural climate of the early eighteen hundreds?

My mind fast forwards a century to Sinclair Lewis' Babbitt. I often think of Babbitt when I go to a United Way event of Chamber of Commerce breakfast.There is something comforting in it, like the bourgeois geraniums that Hemann Hesse's characters paused to admire before setting out on their own.

Yet somewhere, The Hudson School gives way to socialist realism and over to beat poets. All, accessible with a few clicks. The sounds of domesticity disrupts my writing, so I find an audio clip of the surf to listen to. WIth my headphones on, I'm at Big Sur with Richard Brautigan, at a salt water farm with E.B. White, or perhaps wandering Cape Cod with Henry David Thoreau. It is soothing like the little water fountain at my office, or perhaps like Snow Crash.

Here, in the twenty-first century, we can mash it all up into some online multimedia experience, perhaps even with a Naim June Paik video cello playing The Piano Guys' Cello Wars.

But what does it all mean, nestled between Sandy Hook, and Hartford, where care givers and those who have fought mental illness testify before the legislature?

Space was supposed to be the final frontier. Is that still the case in this globally warmed internet age? Are we on the age of another great awakening, a cultural climate change, or is it all vanity?

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