Newyorker Shocked by Moral Callousness of Thoreau

i feel she owes an account of how she would respond to a beach full of the bodies of those who died in a shipwreck.  Thoreau says he sympathizes with the waves.  If that’s wrong, what’s right?


3 thoughts on “Newyorker Shocked by Moral Callousness of Thoreau

  1. N.S. Palmer says:

    Writers are peculiar creatures, as I assume we both know first-hand. However, a bit of context might solve the puzzle of Thoreau’s comment.

    According to the article (like most people, I’ve heard of Thoreau but haven’t read him), he said that a single body would have affected him more than the larger number he saw. That recalls Stalin’s remark that one death is a tragedy but a million deaths is a statistic. Sometimes, the enormity of a tragedy overwhelms our ability to feel about it. I don’t know if that was the case for Thoreau, but maybe waxing philosophical was his way of coping with something that exceeded his ability to cope. It distances him emotionally from the events.

    The article’s author, however, seems not to be entirely serious. She says “I cannot idolize anyone who opposes coffee.” I love coffee, too, but that sounds like a joke.

  2. Mikey says:

    I think I might be too late to catch up with this story. Was there a particular Newyorker who was outraged and everyone knew about her? Sympathising with waves isn’t wrong but it is weird. But if that’s weird, then who’s normal?

    • it was an article in the New Yorker — probably searchable. The author was in high dudgeon cause of thoreau’s supposed moral callousness. In my view he was just reluctant to make the standard cheap gestures

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