Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Extraordinary things possible in no time at all

During the afternoon before President Obama’s address to Congress yesterday, I read a fascinating review of a new John Muir biography in the March 12 New York Review of Books. A particularly fascinating point made by the reviewer was this:

“One of the lessons we all may learn from Muir’s career is that inspiration is a powerful agent of change, and that when the ‘fierce urgency of now’ is upon us, it is essential to make room for, and to ride, the wave of enthusiasm while it lasts. The wave does not last long, but while it does an extraordinary number of good things may be achieved in practically no time at all.”

Is this such a moment in American history? I think so, but only if we make room for it and seize it. But the enthusiasm and hope engendered by the President could well be dissipated by the media’s weird twist on reporting “both sides,” which in today’s crisis they think requires giving equal time to politicians who have a strong partisan interest in having the President fail.

The reviewer of this biography, “A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir” (Oxford University Press) by Donald Worster, is Robert Pogue Harrison, professor of Italian literature at Stanford, whose latest book is “Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition.”

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