I’m a long time admirer of 18th Century French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, even though his beliefs are a bit nutty.
Rousseau contended that man is essentially good, a “noble savage” when in the state of nature (the state of all the “other animals”, and the condition man was in before the creation of civilization and society), and that good people are made unhappy and corrupted by their experiences in society. He viewed society as “artificial” and “corrupt” and that the furthering of society results in the continuing unhappiness of man.
“Man is born free but everywhere is in chains,” said Rousseau. His solution: “Let us return to nature.”
Last week, I returned to nature. I became a different person. I didn’t shave. I let my hair grow wild. I did physical labor, I took my shirt off, I tried to f**k a woman in a rowboat. Eventually, I just gave up wearing clothes completely. I became a wild man. At night, I would sit by the lake and talk with the ducks, as if they were my long-time friends.
But, soon it was time to go home. The four hours back to New York City were the longest in my life. As Sophia and my mother played “20 Questions,” I had a harder task — to slowly return to civilized society. When we hit Poughkeepsie, NY, we stopped at a Mobil station. I went into the restroom and shaved my beard off. When we made it to Yonkers, we stopped at a McDonald’s. I carried my clothes into the men’s room and covered my nakedness for the first time in three days. It made me feel “civilized” again, but it also felt restrictive, as if I were wearing a mask. By the time we crossed over the Throng’s Neck Bridge into the Bronx, I was beginning to speak words again, although I thought I was communicating fine with just my grunts and scratching of my chest hairs. After all, if you think about it, words, like clothes, are facades we hide behind as we manipulate and abuse each another.
As we drove into Queens, my Berkshires vacation became nothing more than a memory. I couldn’t visualize the lake anymore or hear the sound of the water. I forgot the names of the ducks and how I befriended them.
By the time we drove into Flushing, we were starved. I remember that Mrs. Mogul wrote a comment a few days ago insisting I try East on Kissena Boulevard, saying it was one the best Chinese restaurants she’d ever eaten in. We quickly headed to the restaurant to have some dinner. Mrs. Mogul was right. The food was absolutely delicious, especially the duck.
Yes, we were back to urban life.
Confucius says, “A wise man lives with ducks in nature, and eats them in the city.”
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