Thoreau, Lemmings and Simple Gifts

Thoreau, Lemmings and Simple Gifts


When our son-in-law gifted us with a computer, the first thing I “Googled” was the story about the Alaskan Lemmings launching themselves into the sea, as a means of population control. According to Google, Disney had to go to elaborate (and deceptive) staging to accomplish the footage necessary for their movie featuring lemmings. It is true that, as rodents, they are wont to overpopulate and will migrate in large groups searching for food.  They are also good swimmers, and perhaps, have been genetically predisposed to leap into the sea in search of more territory to habituate.

I only mention this to connect with Henry Thoreau. Thoreau’s “triad” for life was naturally simplistic: “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” Christie and I marvel(?) at couples out for dinner, each feverishly texting someone else, at the exclusion of his/her mate.  People are killed in autos because of texting.  The, “hang up the phone while driving” law is a farce. There are theories that, because of these devices, we are losing our ability to talk to people face-to-face.  If a humming bird wants to move “one inch” along a twig, it has to fly up, over and land again. It has lost all ability to use its legs for movement.  Muir, Emerson, Eiseley, Whitman, Thoreau etal, predicted that that only chance of saving humanity from destroying itself will be to return to Nature.

I what is a very strange irony, readers of BOFAW have responded that the book offers them hope.  As a trained biologist, however, I fear that we have overtaxed the “carrying capacity” of our environment.  The threat of us acting like lemmings seems very real and scary.

So I return to my mentor for encouragement:

“I have been accused of wooly-mindedness for entertainingeven hope for man. I can only respond that in the dim morning shadows of humanity, the inarticulate creature who first hesitantly formed the words for pity and love must have received similar guffaws around a fire. Yet some men listened, for the words survive.” Loren Eiseley: The Immense Journey

Knowing this, it is little wonder that I leapt for joy, watching my granddaughter singing the words:

Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free’

Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain’d,

To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,

To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.[2]

One Comment

  1. Wayne Neller

    Profound. Simple. True. Meanwhile, so many continue to run toward the edge of the world with their fingers in their ears.

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