William Remington was something of a solitary idealist…

The sections below are taken from a chapter of ‘I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition‘ by Henry Blue Kline called ‘William Remington: A Study in Individualism’. Hopefully I won’t get in trouble for posting too much from the book. Good stuff!

“By temperament William Remington was something of a solitary idealist…”

“He was graduated with two potentially weighty handicaps. The first was some knowledge and appreciation of literature, history, music and the decorative arts. The second was a deeply rooted determination to live his life, in so far as he possessed free agency to control it, on terms dictated by his own critical intelligence, and nothing else. He was no radical reformer, however; he was inclined rather to scoff at the anarchic poets and philosophers of his college class, and to defend the forces of conservatism against their hot onslaughts; he was ready and willing to subscribe to conventions and standards, insisting only upon reminding himself, whenever they became too fantastic in comparison with his self-chosen norm of human experience and common sense, that they were only standards, not revealed religion or natural theology; and he reserved the right to condemn conventions based on any morality not founded solidly in the ethics of human worth. In a word, he was due for a hard bump. He expected nothing else, for he had been taught what to look for.”

For me this is probably not much more than getting in more trouble with my neighborhood association.

“His social behavior was substantially the same as that of his friends; but their behavior seemed to be instinctive and unconscious, whereas he was unable to dispel a disquieting feeling that his own was a theatrical illusion, that he was an actor impersonating William Remington as the world wished him to be, not William Remington himself. One name for his ailment was self-consciousness, he knew; and self-consciously he decided that most of his new friends belonged to an apathetic majority which included the most of men-to the ‘happy, obliviously blissful mob,; he told himself with a slight twinge of regret for the complacent egoism of his thought-they seemed to have accepted unquestioningly a way of life to which his temperament and education rendered him alien….he could not understand the desire to fill every waking moment with some physical and sensuous activity, for he could find only too little time at best for the leisurely arts of human society and self-cultivation he loved so well.”

I think I have reason #2 why love of history is important. In my last post I detailed reason #1. Self-cultivation is important and that can include hobbies, music, literature and the study of history. If your a “history hater” you probably don’t engage a whole lot in these other pursuits.

“Life as it was being lived about him was a vast stream into which one could enter, or, by an effort of self-denial, stay out of. Most of his new friends were far out in the current; nor was he sure that they could get out of it if they would. He was not alone on the bank, but most of his companions were older, and many of the dead, known to him only through history and literature. He felt too lively for such associates and he valued his freedom to walk the dry land too well to join the group toward which his youth and natural sympathies were drawing him. He hit on a compromise-to enter the stream where he listed, keeping always close to the bank, however, in order that he might be able to get back to shore when he should come to wish it.

I am in the stream and I know it. I am currently making my way towards shore but I am not exactly sure what it will look like when I get there.

“On the other hand, from three summer vacation periods of employment in another factory-the self-styled model factory, and with some justice behind the boast-he has brought away nothing more than a rather poor epigram: The machines were ‘almost human’, their operators ‘almost mechanical'”.

“His individual and personal program was then very simple. He pledged himself to himself to maintain his ‘sales resistance’ at a very high level: he would not starve the body and its senses into submission to his will, but he would insist on being an active party in any transaction which might involve him. He would be fair game for no high-pressure salesmen and no high-pressure propaganda, and would look with a fishy eye on every blessing that was heralded to his notice through advertising and other media of “sales education”. He would become a monkey wrench in the wheels of progress, a dissenter in word and deed from the dogmas of ‘high saturation’ and ‘quick turnover.'”

I am now officially a monkey wrench in the wheels of progress. I have abandoned my loud, heavy gas mower for a reel cut mower. My five year old daughter can even push it. What will the neighbors think when they see her cutting the lawn?

“Made a little wiser by the additional experience he had gained of life, he found what he thought he was looking for…he came to a place where the social balance of progress and culture was for all practical purposes equivalent to his own eutectic balance.”

“And here, even as he had expected, he knew a new satisfaction, a sense that he ‘belonged’ at last: for here was a social soil of just such a richness that he could take root and thrive therein; here was a people who thought in his terms and respected his traditions even when, exceptionably, they could not subscribe to them; here were young men who not only how to get drunk but also the finer art of staying happily sober: here were his own people. And, being satisfied in his new companions, he discovered the very interesting truth that many kinds of meat-and-drink labors which would have been distasteful and not worth doing in the houses of strangers may seem attractive and eminently worth while when one is able to maintain a feeling that one’s efforts are in some way ‘all in the family’.”

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One Response to William Remington was something of a solitary idealist…

  1. […] In line with this thinking you may also enjoy my post ‘William Remington was something of a solitary idealist.’ […]

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