Only a chapter or two is about Rousseau's effect on how his followers perceived nature. But it is the chance in front of my face, especially during summer camping holidays. It seemed that my neighbors belonged to three tribes of "nature lovers."
Tribe #1. A couple women were car camping close to me. I complimented them on the sunniness of the campsite they chose. The car was a Subaru. (eyes rolling.) One of them had flown down from Oregon for the holiday.
Unfortunately many of the nearby spruce trees were dead, a la Colorado. I probably shouldn't have pointed that out. She ignored my un-compliment of the forest, and said that the trees were "beautiful." Really? Do you think she meant that, or was it just something that she was supposed to say? I have a hard time calling pine/spruce/fir forests beautiful even if they are healthy, and they ain't.
|Sacred Solitude in the forest primeval. Breathtakingly beautiful, ain't it? Can't you just see Rousseau, Wordsworth, and Thoreau fluttering their eyelashes on solitary walks in this useless wasteland?|
It only takes a codeword or two to place somebody. The hiker-woman referred to tree-less areas at high altitude as "meadows." She was probably thinking the same thing about me, as I called them "pastures."
Hiking deserves high praise as a cool weather sport, but it surprises me to see its popularity in summer.
Although Rousseau and his spin-off praised "communing with nature" by taking long, solitary walks, it is a credit to the common sense of many modern hikers that they hike in clubs. It proves that they haven't been completely taken in by Rousseau's junk science: of Man living in solitude in harmony with nature...
Only a philosopher could come up with an idea that devoid of common sense. And yet many people have gotten suckered into his mistake. Many RVers have.
Tribe #2: ATVers, generator people, gun enthusiasts. A large group of this animal species was camped near to me. They were even more convivial and sociable than Tribe #1. It was easy to admire them for that, and not feel sore about them coming into my campsite and driving me out.
Sharing food and campfires was a big part of their fun. Unlike Tribe #1, they were non-ideological, non-food-faddish omnivores, who ate the food groups that most human animals have always eaten. Therefore they were able to eat the same food as each other, and enjoy each other's company.
Approaching sunset one evening, the forest seemed to erupt with engine noise. It actually startled me. As it turns out, they were getting excited anticipating the fireworks that night.
But I visualized excitement in another milieu, but having the same structure: primitive tribalists going through the ritual of slowly torturing prisoners from a nearby tribe. As they moved towards evening, the psychotropic drugs, food, campfire, and wild dancing caused the excitement to rise to a new level. The grand climax finally came when the sun fell, and they dragged the prisoners forward to be impaled, or maybe, thown alive into the fire.
Despite the image of Tribe #1 being "green", I think Tribe #2 is "living in harmony with nature" better than Tribe #1.
Tribe #3: I saw a fellow with a horse and mule over by himself, or with his family, actually. I snapped my dog on her leash, and invited myself over to his camp. He walked out with his mule and started talking. That mule ate grass noisily and continuously the entire time. As it turns out, he was an agriculture teacher in a high school, back in Arkansas. He talked about his ride up to the high pastures that we could see from his campsite.
I asked him to teach me something about mules. That was easy, because I know so little. He explained that they had a simple stomach, unlike a cow. I still don't understand how the bio-chemical engineering in a simple stomach can turn grass into animal tissue.
I was sighing with relaxed pleasure as he kept talking. I didn't feel estranged from Tribe #3, as with the other two tribes. A historian might put this fellow (and me!) in the classicist and humanist camp.
The examples I gave today are just illustrations, applications if you will, of the great issues of classicism versus romanticism, as discussed in Babbitt's book. I like to apply the ideas of a book, rather than regurgitate them.