21 October 2009

Bread and Roses

For some reason I cannot fathom, running through my mind right now are lines from Burt Bachrach: “What the world needs now, is love sweet love/It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” Aside from the ungrammatical construction leaving a preposition without its object, the sentiment is completely absurd. There is certainly too little food and water, too little meaningful work, definitely too little joy, and I suspect there are a few other things that are in insufficient quantity.

Why do we listen to such drivel? I know the Beatles said that all you need is love, but there was always something about the music that existed in ironic relationship to the words. Perhaps it was the oom-pah-pah rhythm of the chorus—

I’ve been thinking of the discontent of Henry David Thoreau as expressed in “The Beanfield,” normally one of my favorite chapters. “I said to myself, I will not plant beans and corn with so much industry another summer, but such seeds, if the seed is not lost, as sincerity, truth, simplicity, faith, innocence, and the like, and see if they will not grow in this soil, even with less toil and manurance, and sustain me, for surely it has not been exhausted for these crops. Alas! I said this to myself; but now another summer is gone, and another, and another, and I am obliged to say to you, Reader, that the seeds which I planted, if indeed they were seeds of those virtues, were wormeaten or had lost their vitality, and so did not come up.”

Alas, Reader. I think he acknowledges that though he thinks he planted seeds of those virtues, it might be that what he planted were not seeds at all; that his efforts were ill- or mis-directed, or that his actions contained not enough life to bear fruition. We do not always know the character of our acts based as they must be in the illusions we invest in them. Nor do we always know our effectiveness until our acts bear, or do not bear, fruit.

It is a chilly, rainy day here in Wisconsin; Fall has come and gone too soon. Even those pesky beetles and box elders have retreated from the wet and cold.

Thoreau says “Bread may not always nourish us; but it always does us good, it even takes stiffness out of our joints, and makes us supple and buoyant, when we knew not what ailed us, to recognize any generosity in man or Nature, to share any unmixed and heroic joy.” I baked two loaves of bread this morning; my medical doctor today bestowed great generosity on me.


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