Saturday, January 21, 2012

To See The World

OTR's love for the natural world has its origins in the trees outside his nursery window, in the shooting star he saw through that same window, and in the sycamore forest, fields and stony creek in his childhood paradise in Burlington, West Virginia. Now at the other end of his earthly life, OTR still reveres the cultural and natural world around him, nurtured by a career steeped in the study of the American experience. In the early days, he peeled that experience in much the same way one would peel an onion for the day's salad. One day, he stood  with his best friend at the summit of Capulin Volcano in central New Mexico. They were washed in a glorious sunset filled with distant horizons, a full pallet of color and crepuscular rays that made it a holy event. At once he began a discourse on volcanic landscapes and regional geography interspersed with comments on physics and meteorological phenomena. He didn't get far. After no more than thirty seconds, his friend told him to "shut up" and simply take in the sensation, take it all in.

That was more than forty years ago.  At that moment his days of looking at his world, and particularly himself, began to change. He no longer looked at the bits and pieces. It was as if a long childhood, both personal and academic, had come to an end. Although he could still peel the onion when needed, he began to examine wholeness and its aesthetic. It was beautiful then and beautiful now.

Today OTR would define himself as a pragmatic environmentalist. He sees the need to preserve the world - the American experience - through a lens molded and polished in realism. Unfortunately, environmentalism as a national movement has drifted away from many of the broader American principles that created a love for nature and the culture that sustained it.

Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds has posted a link addressing some interesting and unsettling realities about the environmental preservation movement. OTR has lived, both comfortably and uncomfortably, with these realities for some time. What he finds so interesting is the same observations made by American economist Thorstein Veblen almost a century ago in his discussion of the environmental zeitgeist as something he termed "industrial exemption."

OTR hopes his readers enjoy expanding their mind engines on this narrow topic. He also hopes they can better see the world in their onions as well as chop them for a delicious salad. 

Photo: Capulin Volcano Sunset by Mike Schoonover, 2010

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