Meet Mr. Thoreau                                                                The Social Critic


We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas, but Maine and Texas it may be have nothing important to communicate. ...We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the Old World some weeks nearer to the New, but perhaps the first news that will leak through into the broad, flapping American ear will be that Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.

So with a hundred "modern improvements"; there is an illusion about them; there is not always a positive advance. The devil goes on exacting compound interest to the last for his early share and numerous succeeding investments in them. Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end.

After all, a man whose horse trots a mile a minute does not carry the most important messages; he is not an evangelist, nor does he come round eating locusts and wild honey.

Men think it is essential that the Nation have commerce, and export ice, and talk through a
telegraph, and ride thirty miles and hour, without a doubt...; but whether they should live like baboons or like men, is a little uncertain. If we do not get out sleepers [railroad ties],
and forge rails, and devote days and nights to the work, but go to tinkering upon our lives and improve them, who will build railroads? And if railroads are not built, h..ow shall we get to heaven in a season? But if we stay at home, who will want railroads? We do not ride upon the railroad; it rides upon us. Do you ever think what those sleepers are that underlie the railroad? Each one is a man...The rails are laid on them...They are sound sleepers I assure you.

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn.

All written material © Bill Schechter, 2016
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