Thursday, May 3, 2007

Pastures Green and New

This blog takes its name from an idea that Henry David Thoreau returned to time and again: that of having a "wide margin." Broadly speaking, having a wide margin is the aim of Thoreau's philosophy in two senses. As ascetic as Thoreau may seem--what with his principled disobedience and his year in the woods--his notion of work was not that of his puritan forebears: “The really efficient laborer will be found not to crowd his day with work, but will saunter to his task surrounded by a wide halo of ease and leisure. There will be a wide margin of relaxation to his day. He is only earnest to secure the kernels of time, and does not exaggerate the value of the husk.” Idle hands were far from the devil's workshop for Thoreau. At the same time, writing in notebooks with wide margins provides room for revision (indeed, room for error). Such margins in published books provide room for dialogue, thereby opening debates rather closing them.

A blog so titled then with evince two traits (the blog lords willing): 1) strenuousness in argument will not come at the expense of ease or wit; 2) posts here will open up questions rather than close them. The latter, especially, is not an easy task in online writing, the sine qua non of which is getting attention, and attention is usually gotten by being loud in some fashion. There will not be a total absence of snark here -- we all have our snap judgments. Nevertheless, the credo of a wide margin will hover over, from varying distances, everything that is written here (again, the blog lords willing).