The Wild

Holy cow!

Where Tonight's Reading Is


In Spite of Ourselves

This is it! Tonight's the night. This is what you've all been waiting for. Well, maybe not all of you have been waiting for it. OK, maybe some of you have been dreading it, but still, nonetheless it's here—the Brooklyn reading of the Thoreau You Don't Know, featuring the Washington Square Harp and Shamrock Orchestra. Why an orchestra, when talking about Thoreau? Because Thoreau is not a stick in the mud. He's really about joy, which, for him, is nicely epitomized in music, as some of these notes would indicate—he seems to be saying that we can be happy, in spite of ourselves, to kind of quote John Prine:

When I hear music I fear no danger, I am invulnerable, I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times and to the latest. (From his journal on January 13, 1857.)

A thrumming of piano-strings beyond the gardens and through the elms. At length the melody steals into my being. I know not when it began to occupy me. By some fortunate coincidence of thought or circumstance I am attuned to the universe, I am fitted to hear, my being moves in a sphere of melody, my fancy and imagination are excited to an inconceivable degree. This is no longer the dull earth on which I stood. (From his journal on on August 3, 1852.)

What is there in music that it should so stir our deeps? We are all ordinarily in a state of desperation; such is our life; ofttimes it drives us to suicide. To how many, perhaps to most, life is barely tolerable, and if it were not for the fear of death or of dying, what a multitude would immediately commit suicide! But let us hear a strain of music, we are at once advertised of a life which no man had told us of, which no preacher preaches. Suppose I try to describe faithfully the prospect which a strain of music exhibits to me. The field of my life becomes a boundless plain, glorious to tread, with no death nor disappointment at the end of it. All meanness and trivialness disappear. I become adequate to any deed. No particulars survive this expansion; persons do not survive it. In the light of this strain there is no thou nor I. We are actually lifted above ourselves. (From his journal on on January 15, 1857.)