Though the attendant irony of discovering the quotation in my friend Ed’s shared items on google reader can only be intensified by relaying on my blog, yet I was strongly affected by this:
Just so hollow and ineffectual, for the most part, is our ordinary conversation. Surface meets surface. When our life ceases to be inward and private, conversation degenerates into mere gossip. We rarely meet a man who can tell us any news which he has not read in a newspaper, or been told by his neighbor; and, for the most part, the only difference between us and our fellow is that he has seen the newspaper, or been out to tea, and we have not. In proportion as our inward life fails, we go more constantly and desperately to the post-office. You may depend on it, that the poor fellow who walks away with the greatest number of letters, proud of his extensive correspondence, has not heard from himself this long while.
-Henry David Thoreau, Life Without Principle (1863)”
I doubt there are many points where my thoughts are similar to Thoreau’s, but he describes my reading habits of late.
If there is one thing in the passage which I most strongly disagree with, it is Thoreau’s valorization of the inward and the private. If anything, I would have been better speaking with my neighbors on the 14th floor.