Specimen Daze

I can’t say that I’m any less furious about the state of the world this week than I was last week.


No. Shan’t. I don’t care what you say, Royal Baby Announcement Town Crier Guy. I’ll thcream and thcream ’till I’m thick.

[Maybe a good tune is what we need – check out the Apoplexy Tiny Letter.]

The news doesn’t get any better, and I continue to feel obliged to keep abreast of it. Not, like, constantly. But once in the morning and once at night is sufficient to maintain the fury. Really, I need to re-formalize my mindfulness practice.

Get stuffed!
Hey, Mellow Stroke Bloke! Where you been, maaaaan?

There was a nice moment this past weekend, though, when Mrs Stroke Bloke, The Wee Man, and I met a couple of pals to just chill on a rug in the park. Being among the trees and the grass with a view across to the skyline of Edinburgh was nice. The names of Whitman and Thoreau came up as we passed the time. We were sitting a stone’s throw from Waitrose, after all.

Eh? Whit?!
Thoreau goes full mountain-man-transendentalist

(Yeah, we’ve been binging on Louis Theroux, and I’m not sure it’s helping. [It is, though.])

Now, I know nothing about Henry David Thoreau. As the picture above will attest. I wasn’t the person who mentioned his name. But certainly, his wiki page is piquing my interest.

Seriously, FIFA?
No, Pique. It’s nothing to do with you.

FIFA, there, going all in on the ethnic stereotyping. Anyway. Where were we? Oh yeah. Trying not to be infuriated by everything.

Being in the park, and surrounded by trees, I was reminded that The Wee Man seems to be fascinated by trees. Often when I take him past a tree in his baby carrier, or roll him under one in his stroller, he’ll gaze at it intently and/or smile.

Once saved Ol' Chuck by eating the Great Pumpkin!
“I’m just staying on the right side of them!”

So I’m wondering if there’s anything to be taken out of Thoreau and Whitman and their Transcendentalism that might be useful for my state of mind right now?

According to Ian Wiki,

[a] core belief of transcendentalism is in the inherent goodness of people and nature.

Well, it doesn’t feel like that’s the entry point for me this week. I mean, check out these two mountain men and the inherent goodness of their nature.

Of course, adherents of Transcendentalism believe that society and its institutions have corrupted the purity of the individual, and they have faith that people are at their best when truly “self-reliant” and independent. Which is a pretty nice get out. I’m going to start using it next time I forget to schedule a meeting properly.

Also problematic on first blush is Transcendentalism’s emphasis on subjective intuition over objective empiricism. I’m not sayin, I’m just sayin.

Nevertheless, Thoreau sounds like a kind of interesting guy. Even if friend-of-the-blog Robert Louis Stevenson was singularly dismissive of him.

Sounds like my kinda guy!
“Effeminate… womanish…, and a self-indulgent skulker.”

But I don’t know anything about Thoreau, so let’s not write about him just now. [Never stopped you before – Ed.]

However, friend-of-the-blog-Drew encouraged me to seek out a copy of Whitman’s Specimen Days from the Scottish Poetry Library, and that rather beautiful book is well-situated there. In an entry in Specimen Days, Whitman writes of an Ossianic night, evocative of the legendary Gaelic poet, Ossian.

Who doesn't love a bit of harp?
Even Ingres digs Ossian

In the particular entry, Whitman writes of crossing the Delaware under a transparent steel-gray black sky. Nice, right? He cites Ossian –

Bid the sorrow rise, that their spirits may fly with joy to Morven’s woody hills.

He writes of the friends of my soul and of the stanchest friends of my other soul, my poems.

Well, that all sounds lovely, doesn’t it. Maybe I need to get back to nature a bit, myself. I think was it is, is, I need a holiday.

Beneficial for the morals, you say? Urgh!
Whatever you say, Big Man.




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2 thoughts on “Specimen Daze

  1. ‘…they have faith that people are at their best when truly “self-reliant” and independent.’

    Yeah, I’m gonna have to agree with your skepticism. Coming from the land of toxic self-interest, I’ve met too many of my fellow Americans who proclaim that their (supposedly) enlightened self interest is the only thing that truly matters to them (apart from family, in some cases), and that all governments and socially-minded organizations should never try and tell them how to live their lives. Plus, the numerous stories of successful people who attribute their success almost exclusively to their own talents, with little credit given to others who may have helped (or not hindered).

    I’m guessing that many of these people were neglected / abandoned / harmed in multiple ways in their childhood, and they came to believe that nobody else was ever going to help them improve their lives. So if they can become successful against all odds, then anyone else can as well, without the need for governmental intervention or assistance of any kind. I’m also guessing that I’m not the first person to come up with this idea. 🙂

    1. Well yes, I’m not sure of the root causes, but people do seem to love the narrative of how they are self-made people, and if they can do it, anyone can do it. I’m positive Trump feels the same way.

      America does have the added complication of its particular creation myth and the hardy pioneer. Which brings me to guns. Of course. There is something appealing about returning to the land, and one’s inherent goodness (which may be as misguided as the myth of the self-made man), and it feels right. Which is dangerous. But similarly to the – misguided, I think – argument that we can’t tightly constrain the availability and use of guns because there are so many guns out there and the genie is out of the bottle, it’s hard to see how anything other than (at best) a small, reasonably self-sufficient community could get to the sort of original bliss that I assume Walt and Hank and chums were looking for. We’re too far along a different route, absent some kind of break point.

      Nevertheless, I see that Thoreau’s wiki entry falls within a series of pages on the topic of Green Anarchism. And that’s got to be interesting to look into, I think. For a concept album, at least. But the amount of ground that covers really would call for a holiday! (In Scotland, maybe? )

      if we believe

      believe that society and its institutions have corrupted the purity of the individual, and they have faith that people are at their best when truly “self-reliant” and independent

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