Month: April 2016


New Mexico Homesteader Family, 1940 - Photo by Russell Lee

New Mexico Homesteaders, 1940 – Photo by Russell Lee



“Quack and dupe are upper side, and under, of the selfsame substance; convertible personages.”

~ Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present



“In our society the simplest person is involved with ideas. Every person we meet in the course of our daily life, no matter how unlettered he may be, is groping with sentences toward a sense of his life and his position in it; and he has what almost always goes with an impulse to ideology, a good deal of animus and anger.”

~ Lionel Trilling, The Liberal Imagination


“Where the subject lies so far beyond our reach, the difference between the highest and the lowest of human understandings may indeed be calculated as infinitely small.”

~ Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

On Outrage

“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” So I was admonished by a bumper sticker belonging to a twenty-year-old Toyota sedan on a recent morning amble. My parents never allowed bumper stickers on their cars; they worried it would harm the vehicle’s trade-in value. I’ve avoided them too, but for the same reason that I never got a tattoo: I was always sure I’d regret it.

In fact, I despise bumper stickers, except when I’m amused by them, but in this particular instance I was not amused. I nonetheless asked myself: “Am I outraged?” The answer, I’m afraid, was, “No, I’m not especially outraged at the moment.” Immediately the sledgehammer of bumper-sticker logic brought home the conclusion that I was not, alas, paying attention.

Perhaps I pay attention to the wrong things. The trouble is that there is so much one might pay attention to, and so little attention that one lone mortal can spend. After my encounter with the righteous bumper sticker I tried to pay very strict attention to the weather, to several birds, and to the rhododendron in a neighbor’s front garden, but I failed in every case to be outraged.