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« Texas-Style Bovine Epistemology | Main | Rocky Mountain High I »

· The Volatile Truth of Our Words ·

"The volatile truth of our words," writes Thoreau in Walden; or, Life in the Woods, "should continually betray the inadequacy of the residual statement."

As a logger, charged recently with dodging the literal residue of certain Texas longhorns, I thought to clarify my stance. In his "Conclusion," Thoreau properly marks the problem with exquisite delicacy, in a very stylish passage my readers may well appreciate:

It is a ridiculous demand which England and America make [Thoreau writes] that you shall speak so that they can understand you. Neither men nor toadstools grow so. As if that were important, and there were not enough to understand you without them. As if Nature could support but one order of understandings, could not sustain birds as well as quadrupeds, flying as well as creeping things, and hush and whoa, which Bright [an Ox] can understand, were the best English.

You who've read Texas-Style Bovine Epistemology might now appreciate Thoreau's larger point. What with "cows" and "bulls" running about, it's only natural, I suppose, that the upshot of the matter is this:

As if there were safety in stupidity alone. I fear chiefly lest my expression [Thoreau continues] may not be extra-vagant enough, may not wander far enough beyond the narrow limits of my daily experience, so as to be adequate to the truth of which I have been convinced. Extra vagance! it depends on how you are yarded. The migrating buffalo, which seeks new pastures in another latitude, is not extravagant like the cow which kicks over the pail, leaps the cowyard fence, and runs after her calf, in milking time. Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Other Writings, New York: Bantam, 1962, 343-44.

So let us all repeat now, even Barbara Bush, extra-vagantly enough!

"The volatile truth of our words should continually betray the inadequacy of the residual statement."

Is not Thoreau's "cow" at least an example of one "Mission Accomplished"?

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O.K., Styles, whether it's a "ridiculous demand" or not, we readers would like to understand you. Would you kindly expound upon your point a bit more fully? Many thanks.

Posted by Aunt Huldah on May 2, 2006 01:50 PM
Posted by Styles on May 3, 2006 09:02 PM

Hmmm. Fair enough.

Posted by Aunt Huldah on May 17, 2006 12:55 PM


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