Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Driving from Boulder to Estes Park one late night in June with an electrical storm lighting up the sky to the South I encountered a man named Russel Sutherland who said with a wonder in his voice, "So samaritizing still exists."

I wound through the little town of Lyons and was headed up the hill out of town in a mood to drive slowly, content to listen to paranoid talk radio and watch for animals moving across the road bed, sort of lulled by the warm cab and talk radio. Soon after beginning the ascent I found myself on the bumper of an old truck fitted with a ladder rack and a pile of assorted junk in the bed including a plastic dog kennel and a propane tank wedged against the tail-gate. I noticed that his lights were out and he was rapidly slowing on the incline.

I rolled down my window and asked if he needed a lift. He pushed his metal cased window down with his right hand with a great flurry and didn't answer my offer but instead verbalized what he thought was going wrong with the truck - this automatic, long-bed, '69 Chevy, with paint decay that revealed weathered layers of paint and primer all the way down to the reddish stained metal.


Edward Abbey said, "Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul." This quote could lead in a hundred ways, but suffice to say, it opens the door to investigating the deleterious results of sentiment.

Sentimental objects in our life, fires we huddle around. Objects that give us meaning, and purpose, and identity. All good things at first glance, but at second glance?

They can become objects of tyranny. Think of the tenured professor. Who does the tenured professor pay sentiment to? Their position and the system that has esteemed them. A school teacher with benefits and job security. The system that you have power within is to be revered.

Religious are perhaps some of the most sentimental. A minister in a cushy cleric position. Naturally, the minister is sentimental to where their power and well-being derives. Religious adherents are often just as taken in, especially in religious systems that offer absolute truth; salvation through special knowledge and experience; and a dominating sense of exceptionalism. This kind of sentimentality appeals. It is warm and cozy to know that your in-group is exceptional and exceedingly special the world over. It is more than appealing, it is intoxicating.

Ironic that the great teachers of truth were something less than sentimental preservers of tradition. They are unique not because they started something popular and appealing that would lead to even more versions of sentimentality. They critiqued the revered way, the sentimental way, when it became set in its ways and forgetful of the way of truth.

A poem by Ryokan as antidote: The thief left it behind/The moon at my window.