We are at a cultural moment when living in close proximity and having many close friends and a ceaseless embracing community are thought to be unalloyed goods. "Bowling alone" is our shorthand for personal despair and social disintegration. However, as I dare say you - like Jean-Paul Sartre - have noticed, people can be annoying. We need distance from, as much as we need association with, one another. Thoreau tried for both: he would walk from Walden Pond to Concord, hang out with his dear friends the Emersons and the Alcotts, and then retreat to his hovel to be fairly happily alone.
If on such occasions Thoreau was thinking in his reflective way that human beings are animals and that what we do is natural, then he did not consider his stroll into Concord a departure from nature but an exploration of a bit of it. And this is the way I feel about Walmart, which - big-box island in a blacktop sea - is a perfectly natural object, as much an environment as my woods.
Walmart is no Concord. And if Greg will pardon my saying so, he is no Emerson or Alcott, though possibly he is a better golfer than either. Then again, he is also not my dear friend...
Crispin Sartwell is a friend of mine. We are supposedly both charter members of the Defeatists as well as my being an occasional commentator on his blog, Cheese it, the Cops. Crispy is a philosophy professor for Dickinson College, a former rock and roll critic, a retired environmental terrorist and a fairly interesting guy for a lot of reasons, including his part time job as a blackjack and three card monte dealer in an alley in back of Trump's in Atlantic City. He has kids, college looming and teaches philosophy at a private college. Cut the man some slack OK!
This is an interesting piece for a lot of reasons. Although some of the Defeatist-Malcontent collective and carp fishing gang professed confusion at what he was saying, I think he was being kind of cynically lyrical. Crispin appears to be going through a phase...I kind of like the idea of Walmart as our Walden, since except for pithy phrases here and there, I despise Walden...The Transcendentalists were smug, self-satisfied bourgeois Babbits who inflicted themselves on us ever since. Emerson, Longfellow, Thoreau are not and never were Tinker, Evers and Chance. Or, Burroughs, Kerouac and Ginsberg. The insufferable rightness of the Yankee ascendency irritates me -- concepts do have dates, citing another philosophical friend of mine, Mary Hunt.