The best paragraph I read today

Singing together, working together against tangible adversaries, melds us into one whole: we become members of the community, embedded in place.  By contrast, thinking–especially thinking of the reflective, ironic, quizzical mode, which is a luxury of affluent societies–threatens to isolate us from our immediate group and home.  As vulnerable beings who yearn at times for total immersion, to sing in unison (eyes closed) with others of our kind, this sense of isolation–of being a unique individual–can be felt as a deep loss.  Thinking, however, yields a twofold gain: although it isolates us from our immediate group it can link us both seriously and playfully to the cosmos–to strangers in other places and times; and it enables us to accept a human condition that we have always been tempted by fear and anxiety to deny, namely, the impermanence of our state wherever we are, our ultimate homelessness.  A cosmopolite is one who considers the gain greater than the loss.  Having seen something of the splendid spaces, he or she (like Mole [in The Wind in the Willows]) will not want to return, permanently, to the ambiguous safeness of the hearth.

That is by Yi-Fu Tuan, discussed by Virginia Postrel.


that really reminded me of Heidegger.

particulary his letter on humanism.

"Singing together" seems to lose something in translation. Is singing together "The Messiah" or Beethoven's 9th Symphony really the opposite of thinking? Does this phrase have some implication of Cultural Revolution re-education camps in the Chinese that's missing in English?

Yi-Fu Tuan is an American. The book is not a translation.

As a Chinese living in the States, I find the above paragraph †¦ so appealing! I suppose along a spectrum of perfect belonging and perfect individuality, one has to pick a point. From Tuan’s website, I found this touching letter he wrote on the past Easter ( Tuan seems to have found his point, somewhere he could enjoy the freedom of mind while still keeping a sense of belonging: everyday, he goes to Starbucks and Steep-and-Brew on campus, reading and feeling nurtured by a “tall† cup of coffee and the ambience of the place. He has taken in the place and people’s actions by heart: the generous tips students give; every small step the middle-aged woman with bulging eyes takes to drink her daily vanilla cappuccino... We have to participate to feel we belong. Most people do it physically by “singing together or working together against tangible adversaries.† In Tuan’s case, his mind actively participates by observing and grasping a place until he feels a sense of belonging. It is all so appealing!

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