Wednesday, July 12, 2006

In Memory of Henry David Thoreau

Today is Wednesday, 12 July 2006.

Today is the 189th anniversary of the birth of Henry David Thoreau in 1817.

Thoreau is of course best-known for his intense interest in and concern for the environment.

Thoreau was also an opponent of the 1846-1848 imperialist war known in the USA/United States Empire/United and Subject States as “The Mexican War” and in Mexico as “La Guerra de Intervención Norteamericana” (“The War of North American Intervention”). The result was the theft of Texas, California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

This is also the day of the year when sunrise and sunset occur exactly along the east-west line of the street grid of Manhattan. I first discovered this for myself in a way Thoreau would have appreciated: devoting close attention to my environment.
During the time my family and I lived in New York City, in the ‘80s and ‘90s, one of the favorite spots of your author and his wife was The Café at Grand Central Terminal. It was located on the west balcony of the Main Concourse (the Vanderbilt Avenue side). (It has since been replaced by a Michael Jordan Steak House, the McDonald’s of steaks.)

Run by the owner of The River Café, it had a small rectangular bar and several dozen tables. Its menu was small but delicious. Above the cavernous Main Concourse, the ceiling is painted with a view of the night sky as it was several thousand years ago, complete with fanciful representations of the constellations.

The first summer we started going there, I noticed that the sunlight streaming through the two-story windows on the west side nearly lined up with the identical windows on the east side, and that, day by day, the coincidence became closer. Finally, on 12 July, the sunlight from the west windows streamed across the Concourse and exited the building precisely through the east windows, not a drop touching the wall surrounding the windows.

As you, dear readers, might expect, I cannot mark this day without noting the difference between Henry David Thoreau and George Warlord Bush, Dick Warlord Cheney, etc. in their respective values regarding the environment and imperialist conquest.

I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right.” [Civil Disobedience]

How does it become a man to behave toward this American government today? I answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it.” [Ibid.]

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” [Walden, Conclusions]


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