Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Tropics

"...I know little of England, but the United States are pretty familiar to me; the two climates, I imagine, cannot be very dissimilar. That a man should wear himself to the bone in the acquisition of material gain is not pretty. But what else can he do in lands adapted only for wolves and bears? Without a degree of comfort which would be superfluous hereabouts, he would feel humiliated. He must become strenuous if he wishes to rise superior to his inhospitable surroundings."

"We think a good deal of strenuousness," objected the Bishop.

"Have you not noticed that whenever anything, however fantastic, is imposed upon men by physical forces, they straightway make a god of it?...The Eskimo doubtless deifies seal-blubber; he could not survive without it. ......We have only a certain amount of energy at our disposal. It is not seemly to consume every ounce of it in a contest with brute nature....

"Tell me, sir, how shall the mind be elevated if the body be exhausted with material preoccupations? Consider the complex conditions under which a Northern family is obliged to live. Think of the labour expended upon that unceasing duel with the elements--the extra clothing and footwear and mufflers and mantles, the carpets, the rugs, the abundant and costly food required to keep the body in sound working condition, the plumbing, the gas, the woodwork, the paintings and repaintings, the tons of fuel, the lighting in winter, the contrivances against frost and rain, the neverending repairs to houses, the daily polishings and dustings and scrubbings and those thousand other impediments to the life of the spirit! Half of them are nonexistent in these latitudes; half the vitality expended on them could be directed to other ends. ...

"Living in our lands, men would have liesure to cultivate nobler aspects of their nature. They would be accessible to purer aspirations, worthier delights. They would enjoy the happiness of sages. What other happiness deserves the name? In the [..Tropics...] lies the hope of humanity."

Norman Douglas, SOUTH WIND, Dodd,Mead, NY, 1918;