Lapham’s Quarterly Summer 2008: Book of Nature, pt. III, Gardens of Earthly Delight

[CATEGORIES: Literature, Lapham’s Quarterly, Reading, Book Review, Photography]
[Click HERE to see my previous posts referencing Lapham’s Quarterly.]
[Some of LQ’s contents are available free.  “…to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Matt. 7:8 -KJV)]
[Click on photos to enlarge, zoom, and in many cases see camera info.]

My marathon L.Q. pre-view/re-view continues.  Complementary nature photos are distributed throughout for the iconographically inclined.

As Lewis Lapham notes in his Preamble of the second section: “…those [contributors] in “Gardens of Earthly Delight” cultivate the notion, proposed in the Book of Genesis and seconded by Cicero, that nature is man’s servant…”.

38 excerpts this section of L.Q.  15 available free online.

Genesis is an early excerpt of course, the first book in The Bible.  “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”  “And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air and over the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the dart.””

Man’s dominion ‘proposed’ Mr. Lapham?  Sounds like a declaration for the Christian domain at least.

Sir Francis Bacon (1625, free) from Essays or Counsels, Civil and Moral, details how to start a plantation.

Cicero’s mostly impeccable logic ‘places the universe at the disposal of mankind’.  L.Q.’s condensed version (not free) is much easier to read than the lengthy bits starting at Chp. LVI uncondensed.

“Man alone of all the animals has traced the pathways of the rising and the setting of the stars.”
“We need to be inferior to the gods in nothing except our mortality, which need in no way hinder us from living well.” (Pp 75, 76.)

Cicero and Bacon were both prolific writers as you can see from the full versions.

***Eric Schlosser’s detail (not free) of the myriad chemicals used in creating ‘natural flavor’ is priceless.  On this page search for ‘the quality that people seek’ and read 10 paragraphs or so.  Unbelievable.

An excerpt from Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is present.  She and her book are credited with providing public awareness about DDT that led to a national ban though she never proposed one outright herself.  Wiki enlightens.  Controversy continues on whether the ban contributed to malaria deaths or not in poor countries.  To some it’s not a ‘settled science’.

John Berger is noteworthy and not complimentary on zoos and ‘Why Look at Animals?’. You can see the text here from page 21 to the top of 26.

Hitler is noteworthy, only lest we forget, on his concerns for animals but not for humans. Free.

R.W. Emerson is insightful as always (free): “Nature is thoroughly mediate.  It is made to serve.  It receives the dominion of man as meekly as the ass on which the Savior rode.  It offers all its kingdoms to man as the raw material which he may mould into what is useful.” (p. 88)  I do find him ultimately God-oriented: “In God, every end is converted into a new means.”  Even in Self Reliance (“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion…”) God is mentioned 24 times.  Genesis’ reach perhaps.

Freud is, well, Freud.  “The principal task of civilization… is to defend us against nature.” (p. 88)

The excerpt by George Marsh is pertinent for his thoughtful comments on the destructiveness of humanity.  Mr. Marsh is pertinent for his reported fluency in twenty languages by age thirty.  Wiki reports only eight.

Alan Leopold, the father of wildlife ecology (so many writers I’ve never heard of I think I’m getting an illiteracy complex), is optimistic here:  “Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, but humbler folk may circumvent this restriction if they know how. To plant a pine, for example, one need be neither god nor poet; one need only own a shovel. By virtue of this curious loophole in the rules, any clodhopper may say: Let there be a tree – and there will be one.” (p. 91)  ‘Leopold was influential in the development of modern environmental ethics and in the movement for wilderness conservation.’ –Wiki.

*** Nathaniel Hawthorne is excellent and free.  He imagines a time-lapse panorama of native wood being settled over time.
“In my daily walks along the principal street of my native town, it has often occurred to me that if its growth from infancy upward, and the vicissitude of characteristic scenes that have passed along this thoroughfare during the more than two centuries of its existence, could be presented to the eye in a shifting panorama, it would be an exceedingly effective method of illustrating the march of time.” (p. 95)
“And the Indians, coming from their distant wigwams to view the white man’s settlement, marvel at the deep track which he makes, and perhaps are saddened by a flitting presentiment that this heavy tread will find its way over all the land; and that the wild woods, the wild wolf, and the wild Indian will alike be trampled beneath it. Even so shall it be. The pavements of the Main-street must be laid over the red man’s grave.” (p. 97)
Superbly written and insightful.

30 more pages in this section.  Should I just copy and paste the rest?  Let’s try for a wrap:
–Michael Pollan (“A lawn is grass under totalitarian rule”) comments on genetically modified food.  (2001)
–John Winthrop, c. 1628, writes in Olde Anglish on Manifest Destiny.
–T. Jefferson, c. 1803, sends Meriwether Lewis an extensive list to be researched on the expedition with Clark.
–*** John Steinbeck, c. 1930, is a beautifully descriptive writer.  From Grapes of Wrath:
“A gentle wind followed the rain clouds, driving them on northward, a wind that softly clashed the drying corn.” (p. 112)
“In the morning the dust hung like fog, and the sun was as red as ripe new blood.” (p. 112)
I do not see writing like that in today’s ‘everyday’ best-seller fiction.
–Teddy Roosevelt could write also, in this case about the Grand Canyon.  Free.
–Curtis White is outstanding when commenting on the futility of carbon trading and the Kyoto Accord as well as Man’s feeble attempts at achieving a ‘balance’ with Nature.  An expanded version is available here and concludes with Chp. III first paragraph here.  Read it all for very insightful and thought-provoking work.

There is more.  Always more.  I must READ (and take more pictures).  “And miles to go before I sleep.”  (Robert Frost .)

4 thoughts on “Lapham’s Quarterly Summer 2008: Book of Nature, pt. III, Gardens of Earthly Delight

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