Two Amazing Poems

With the sheer bulk of writing out there, and the utter banality of much of it, I am surprised when I come across pieces that shake me up as much as these two poems I saw today do. I won’t attempt to introduce them, but just reproduce them here:

Robinson Jeffers – “Original Sin”

The man-brained and man-handed ground-ape, physically
The most repulsive of all hot-blooded animals
Up to that time of the world: they had dug a pitfall
And caught a mammoth, but how could their sticks and stones
Reach the life in that hide? They danced around the pit, shrieking
With ape excitement, flinging sharp flints in vain, and the stench of their bodies
Stained the white air of dawn; but presently one of them
Remembered the yellow dancer, wood-eating fire
That guards the cave-mouth: he ran and fetched him, and others
Gathered sticks at the wood’s edge; they made a blaze
And pushed it into the pit, and they fed it high, around the mired sides
Of their huge prey. They watched the long hairy trunk
Waver over the stifle trumpeting pain,
And they were happy.

Meanwhile the intense color and nobility of sunrise,
Rose and gold and amber, flowed up the sky. Wet rocks were shining, a little wind
Stirred the leaves of the forest and the marsh flag-flowers; the soft valley between the low hills
Became as beautiful as the sky; while in its midst, hour after hour, the happy hunters
Roasted their living meat slowly to death.

These are the people.
This is the human dawn. As for me, I would rather

Be a worm in a wild apple than a son of man.
But we are what we are, and we might remember
Not to hate any person, for all are vicious;
And not be astonished at any evil, all are deserved;
And not fear death; it is the only way to be cleansed.

Robinson Jeffers, “Original Sin” from The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, edited by Tim Hunt. Copyright © 1938 by Robinson Jeffers, renewed 1966 and © Jeffers Literary Properties. With the permission of Stanford University Press, http://www.sup.org. Source: The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers (Stanford University Press, 1988)

Denise Levertov – “Come into Animal Presence”

Come into animal presence.
No man is so guileless as
as the serpent. The lonely white
rabbit on the roof is a star
twitching its ears at the rain.
The llama intricately
folding its hind legs to be seated
not disdains but mildly
disregards human approval.
What joy when the insouciant
armadillo glances at us and doesn’t
quicken his trotting
across the track into the palm bush.
What is this joy? That no animal
falters, but knows what it must do?
That the snake has no blemish,
that the rabbit inspects his strange surroundings,
in white star silence? The llama
rests in dignity, the armadillo
has some intention to pursue in the palm forest.
Those who were sacred have remained so,
holiness does not dissolve, it is a presence
of bronze, only the sight that saw it
faltered and turned from it.
An old joy returns in holy presence.

Reproduced in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences

These poems sort of say the same thing, but very differently. And the astonishing thing, for me, is the way they describe the ugliness of humanity without being misanthropic or encouraging hatred. It seems to me that what these poems attempt to get at, with a self-conscious sense of failure tempered by a beauty of imagination, is an awareness of the non-human world that steps beyond human judgment, and into a primal state of being that humans have lost because of civilization. They lament the de-spiritualized mode of perception that is imposed by humanity’s current way of life, or perhaps a loss too deep to put into words, something that explains our sense of alienation and nihilistic impulses far better than Marxism, Existentialism, or any political, religious, or philosophical ideology ever could.

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13 Responses to Two Amazing Poems

  1. Angele Ellis says:

    But isn’t “the ugliness of humanity” still the product of an animal (albeit one big-brained enough to possess more guile than a serpent)? Jeffers’s description of the cavemen’s slaughter of the mammoth–pungent as it is–made me wonder if death inflicted by a fire set by “man the toolmaker” is more painful than death inflicted by predators with razorlike teeth and claws. The latter type of death is a daily part of nature, and as Jeffers says, “death…is the only way to be cleansed.”

  2. staringatangels says:

    If you look closely at the Jeffers poem and my comments, neither imply that humans aren’t animals. “Original Sin” describes humans as “the most repulsive of hot-blooded animals.” The slow roasting alive of the mammoth is depicted in all its detail to me is not quite the same as a wolf, lion, or hawk that attacks its prey and kills it. I think Jeffers here is alluding to a delight in torture that doesn’t exist in the rest of the animal world. Anyway, the debate as to whether humans are more cruel or not than other animals isn’t what I find important about these poems. That claim has been made before, has been refuted before, and there isn’t any way to settle such subjective, general arguments anyway. And if either of the poems were that pedantic, I wouldn’t find them that interesting.

    What strikes me is what I originally said in my comments–the sense that something has been “lost” because of civilization. I have felt this since a young child, even when I didn’t understand what I was feeling, and the more I learn the more this feeling becomes refined and reinforced.

    There was a protest this weekend, which I didn’t go to, of a traveling circus of exotic animals. The animals are kept in horrible conditions, giraffes made to bend down in cramped spaces, elephants abused with hooks, and open sores left on the animals to fester. When I read about this, it made me think of the Jeffers poem. The “original sin” of the cave-dwellers was learning that we could do more than get food out of other animals. We learned that we can get satisfaction out of subduing and torturing them, and because of that I think we have lost our respect for the rest of the natural world, as well as lost part of our own identity.

  3. Angele Ellis says:

    You feel that “..something has been ‘lost’ because of civilization,”that civilization is equivalent with sadism, “get[ting] satisfaction out of subduing and torturing” other creatures. Sensitive children do feel this–I believe–when they begin to recognize cruelty and the organization of cruelty.

    You don’t find examples of cruelty in the social habits of other animals to be relevant. These animals do not torture and destroy on a global, mechanized scale, true. But my question is, what are/were human beings without civilization? Whence do we trace the “original sin” of sadism, from which there is no Eden of escape? Jane Goodall observed, during a (to her) senseless war between two factions of gorillas, one gorilla mother seizing another’s baby to murder it–but perhaps primates are too close to Jeffers’s “repulsive” and “hot-blooded” cavemen for peace of mind.

    We can turn to Levertov’s poem, with its beautiful incantation: “Come into animal presence,” its invocation of “holiness” and “dignity,” the striking “white star silence” of the rabbit. But this poem’s transformative power lies as much in the reverent attitude of the speaker (one aspect of civilization) as in the animal world that she describes.

    OK, I can’t stand the Jeffers poem, which I find to be as crude and pitiless as its ugga-mugga scenario, and utterly misanthropic in its execution and in its tacked-on conclusion, “..Not to hate any person, for all are vicious…,” in which the speaker’s love is lavished only on “the intense color and nobility of sunrise” (an image that would be anthropomorphic if used by another poet). Granted, this poem was written in the tense and reckless interlude between two terrible world wars, but Jeffers goes beyond other poets of the time in his contempt for humanity.

    For another view of our ancestors, I prefer to turn to Muriel Rukeyser (a generation younger than Jeffers, but whose work overlaps his in history):

    PAINTERS

    In the cave with a long-ago flare
    a woman stands, her arm up. Red twig, black twig, brown
    twig.
    A wall of leaping darkness over her.
    The men are out hunting in the early light
    But here in this flicker, one or two men, painting
    and a woman among them.
    Great living animals grow on the stone walls,
    their pelts, their eyes, their sex, their hearts,
    and the cave-painters touch them with life, red, brown, black,
    a woman among them, painting.

  4. Angele Ellis says:

    P.S. Correction: in my reference to Jane Goodall, I referred to the primates she observed as gorillas. They were chimpanzees.

  5. staringatangels says:

    What are humans without civilization, indeed? That is a question that I long to answer, while realizing that I never can.

    The question we can answer, though, is what has civilization done to us? How you feel about those poems will depend upon your answer(s). It has made us produce things of beauty, as in the Rukeyser poem. It has also led us to engage in acts of altruism—for each other and for other beings—unsurpassed in the rest of nature. However, it has also driven us to great cruelty and sadism unsurpassed in the rest of nature. And, to our own detriment, I believe it has caused a great disconnect between us and the rest of our world that is a significant factor in many of humanity’s larger problems.

    Non-human animals can be brutal, but humans have too long used the view of nature as “red tooth and claw” to beat, starve, torture, and hunt other animals into extinction. It is time for a more complex view.

    Chimpanzee (and other primate) aggression has been said to largely have been caused, including by researchers such as Goodall herself, to be the result of the “feeding stations” used in the research, as well as crowding and habitat loss due to human settlements. These conditions created competitive pressures that would not usually exist in the wild. This is the same reason why wolves and other animals slaughter domestic animals without eating them. It’s still up to debate, but, even those who think aggression in primates is normal are careful to be clear that it is not comparable to human behavior. The methods, intensity, and motivations are quite different.

    In any case, my mind does not equate primate “warfare,” or any other non-human animal behavior that I know of, with atrocities such an anal electrocution to kill animals for their fur, hording hundreds of pigeons together just to see how many one can shoot, or chasing wolves to death from airplanes. It’s not something I can define quantitatively, it’s just something you either believe or you don’t. If you don’t feel the difference, deep in your heart, Jeffers’ poem will probably not speak to you like it does to me.

    The same thing goes with the feeling that I would “rather / Be a worm in a wild apple than a son of man.” If you have never felt this, deep and hard, felt something akin to spiritual pain thinking about this, the idea that there has been something lost from our essential being by civilization will probably not affect you the way it does me.

    Why, exactly, do you find the Jeffers poem to be crude? Do you find any part of it to be untrue? Or only incomplete? It’s understandable to not like to look at humanity’s ugly side, but I think it’s healthy, in fact necessary, to confront this sometime in one’s life. Maybe you want to do it another way than through this poem. I don’t find it to be misanthropic, because I don’t find it to be any less than truthful and descriptive. It doesn’t deny that humans can be good, it just depicts the very ugly side of them. The Rukeyser poem goes the other way. It is not a complete picture, either, but that is not a fault. If you can find value in the poem’s purpose, how do you think he could have achieved it better?

    And if I am like this poem in being misanthropic, what of it? I would not consider myself that since I can recognize humanity’s good as much as it’s bad, but if feeling a temporary disgust at being human means I’m misanthropic, oh well. How is being misanthropic worse than not being misanthropic?

    And if Jeffers’ claim that “all are vicious” is unfair, why is that different than everyone being “guilty” of being part of the systemic political structure that has led to so much widespread suffering? To me, what Jeffers is saying is not that every person is pouring acid on a monkey’s face. But we have all somehow benefited from the exploitation of other life forms, even down to the most hardcore fruitarian.

    A final note on anthropomorphism. I don’t find most claims of anthropomorphism valid anymore. At least when used in poetic or metaphorical ways. (I think it’s a whole different issue if one is actually ascribing a quality to a non-human animal in order to determine how to treat it.)

  6. Angele Ellis says:

    Human beings are inextricable from civilization, which you and I agree has produced actions and artifacts of supreme beauty and of unendurable cruelty. We also agree that other animals do not engage in sadism and exploitation on the vast scale that humans have done. I maintain, however, that it is erroneous to romanticize the lives and social structures of other creatures–to do so de-emphasizes the many traits that we have in common, and does nothing to save these creatures from exploitation and slaughter by humans.

    If you agree with Jeffers, however, that human civilization was tainted with “original sin” even at its “dawn,” then the “disconnect” between human beings and the rest of creation is irrevocable, and every human society–from small groups of hunter-gatherers to “hardcore fruitarians” to large, wasteful, technologically advanced civilizations–is damned.

    No, I would not “rather/Be a worm in a wild apple than a son of man,” although as a daughter of Eve I would zestfully bite into any apple of knowledge, worm and all.

    I don’t deny that there may be truth in Jeffers’s lurid portrait of the dawn of human desolation, any more than you deny that there may be truth in Rukeyser’s luminous view of the dawn of human artistry. I do not believe, however, that these poems are two halves of a whole (“I cannot make a world quite round,” as Wallace Stevens said).

    Nor do I believe that there is nothing wrong than misanthropy. Temporary disgust at humanity is not misanthropy. My problem with Jeffers (to be precise, my problem with “Original Sin”) is that the speaker elevates misanthropy into a virtue–more than that, into the salvation of a superior man from the savage race from which he sprang. I see no forgiveness, and no shared responsibility, in the lines “Not to hate any person, for all are vicious;/And not be astonished at any evil, all are deserved…”, only embittered condemnation of others.

    A final note on anthropomorphism: I was trying to make a joke. Just like a human being.

  7. Don says:

    Andrew and Angele:

    Thanks for the note, Andrew, what a marvelous discussion provoked by two (3, really, counting the Rukeyser) wonderfully juxtaposed poems.

    Jeffers is hugely misanthropic and, though I don’t particularly hold it against him, I also have to say I was shocked at the sort of tacked on ending, pleasantly shocked, I’d hasten to add. I’ve read a lot of Jeffers and his view of humanity is about as dismal as it gets, so this was a bit of a surprise (& perhaps should be doubted, as you point out, Angele).

    Angele, your comment that these 2 poems don’t form two halves of a whole really struck me, probably because I was thinking, erroneously, that in some ways they do. But I’d say this: if we step back one step further, we might be able to say that these are two points of view that in fact fit into the myriad pieces of the puzzle that is human existence. I’m thinking of Hermann Hesse’s steppenwolf, Harry Haller, who saw the whole world in dualistic terms until he realized that duality was too simple a summation, existence is huge enough to encompass all this and a kaleidoscopic set of variations besides.

    I, of course, bring my own point of view to the discussion, which is Buddhist in nature, so I see all of your arguments as not only valid but essentially all of your arguments are right. It is the contradictory nature of humans being examined here and I think it is really too simple to settle for one or another point of view. I very much “enjoyed” reading all of these poems; I feel more kinship with Levertov and Rukeyser but also feel the undeniable overall truth of what Jeffers says. I don’t find any of the poems totally satisfying, but I’m quite a fusspot when it comes to that sort of thing, and also, perhaps, there is simply no one simple resolution to this question.

    Andrew, I really appreciate your close reading of these pieces. The essential question of man as a social animal, hence the development of civilization, is where the core conflict lies. And we are torn in both directions: this is most certainly dualism. Our “intelligence,” which separates us from other animals, must be at least part of the key to overcome the conflict while it is at the very same time the cause. This is what has always amazed me about my heroes (saints is probably a better word) Gandhi and Martin Luther King, their urge to transcend violence to promote real change.

    Still, if we look at the personal lives of both these people, we find them certainly not above criticism. And there is the core argument. What Jeffers rails against is human nature itself – I always picture him in a gale force storm, at the edge the continent, upon the stony cliffs he so revered, screaming into the wind at the top of his lungs about the horror of it all.

    Your childhood experience is relevant and I believe shared by many of us. What do we do with these feelings, this knowledge of human nature, that we sense to be true? I admire Jeffers greatly because he would not stand down from these questions – in some ways they broke something essential in him, but in others they made him the amazing poet that he was.

    Don

    PS Hesse felt, particularly in his last work, The Glass Bead Game, that humor was the bridge between the rational and the emotional, the dance that made humans complete.

    So, jokes are good.

    • staringatangels says:

      Don,

      Thank you for your lengthy response to our discussion. I’m glad you appreciate our readings of the Jeffers poem. I had been meaning to reply but with Thanksgiving and Nanowrimo, haven’t been able to. But, I guess you’re right—we’ve had our own mini-3-Poem Discussion here! Maybe it’s to stave off withdrawal in December.

      I haven’t read any other of Jeffers’ poems (one of the reasons I hesitated in responding), but I have read about his life. I don’t think the word “misanthrope” is right for him, or maybe that’s what he was but not ALL he was, and to latch onto that word doesn’t do him justice. I think the word “inhumanism” is better than misanthropy, but maybe you and Angele think that is just a euphemism?

      Anyway, he didn’t seem to LIVE like a misanthrope—he seemed to really love his wife and kids. And he wasn’t engaging (as far as I know) in any kind of radical, militant environmental action, so I wonder exactly how his philosophical extremism should be interpreted. He did say he would rather kill a man than a hawk. I don’t know if I go that far, but I still follow him pretty far. So, rather than being shocked by him, I found confirmation of my own sentiments. I guess I find more resonance with his poem than Levertov’s or Rukeyser’s.

      I don’t think I have as much of a problem with the ending feeling tacked on. Poems often take unexpected turns.

      I agree that human nature is too complex to be reduced to one perspective or poem. As powerful as all three of the poems given here are, none of them are “the last word” on a philosophical view of humanity. You hit the sore spot of the problem in that our intelligence seems both the thing that leads to our cruelty and is the thing that can help us overcome our cruelty. Intelligence is a fierce predator hunting itself. Perhaps, though, there are non-rational ways to approach nature: myth, mystical participation, just being in the company of the non-human.

      My mind isn’t able to sustain the kind of misanthropy that perhaps I sometimes desire to—there’s just too much beauty (and humor) to being human that keeps me in check. Your Buddhism offers a refreshing sense of open-mindedness, but this is one topic I find it hard to wax Eastern on.

      You’re much more likely to find me alongside Jeffers on that cliff, howling into the wind. Or wishing I was that mammoth so that I could rise up and trample those mean old cave dwellers. Usually, though, I just end up with the philosophical equivalent of ACME products when I try to catch the roadrunner of reason.

  8. Angele Ellis says:

    Don,

    Thanks for bringing Buddhist balance (and Hesse’s endorsement of humor) to our impassioned discussion. Perhaps Jeffers gets under my skin because I am prone to essentialist–and sometimes misanthropic–assessments of human behaviors.

    Yet despite the vividly repellent cruelty of Jeffers’s cavemen, they were hunting not for sport or for revenge, but for meat, as do wolves and other carnivores. Their solution to their problem–how to bring down an animal whose hide was too tough for their teeth, sticks, and stones–brought the joy that solving problems (and satiating hunger) brings, however streaked with red.

  9. staringatangels says:

    “Human beings are inextricable from civilization”

    Whether we are or not (and I don’t believe it can be proved either way), I think that it’s a good thing to try, from time to time, to “extract” oneself from civilization as much as possible.

    “We also agree that other animals do not engage in sadism and exploitation on the vast scale that humans have done.”

    Unless there are some seriously dramatic science articles or “When Animals Attack” videos that I’ve missed, I don’t believe non-human animals engage in sadism or exploitation on ANY scale.

    With your most recent post, our fundamental difference in perspective again comes through. The killing of the mammoth is NOT the same as predators bringing down prey. That’s how it starts out, but it becomes a celebration of suffering, not a joy in problem-solving or sating their hunger. The poem does not deal with those things—not because it is an accurate and complete depiction of caveman psychology, but because, in my interpretation, it illustrates that transition from predator to torturer.

    “I maintain, however, that it is erroneous to romanticize the lives and social structures of other creatures….”

    I agree that it is unhelpful to romanticize about nature, but I don’t think that anything that either Jeffers or I have said does that. I also think it is much more dangerous to over-emphasize the “red tooth and claw” aspect of nature and/or to de-emphasize humanity’s destructiveness, considering the vast amount of suffering we have inflicted on other life forms, compared to how much harm they have caused us. I don’t think any amount of romanticizing can ever make up for the damage already done. In fact, perhaps an extremity of anti-human/pro-non-human sentiment is necessary to push back against the cruelty already happening.

    “If you agree with Jeffers, however, that human civilization was tainted with “original sin” even at its “dawn,” then the “disconnect” between human beings and the rest of creation is irrevocable, and every human society–from small groups of hunter-gatherers to “hardcore fruitarians” to large, wasteful, technologically advanced civilizations–is damned.”

    Maybe it is. I remember someone talking about the problem created by nuclear weapons, and they had an interesting point. They argued that the problem is much too serious for eliminating all nuclear weapons to be the solution. Even if that very unlikely scenario were to happen, the “knowledge” of making nuclear weaponry would still be in tact. So, unless all the research and information regarding them could be “erased” from human consciousness, which would take generations of “unlearning,” the threat would still be there. I would say we have thousands, if not millions, of years of unlearning to do.

    But in any case, I don’t necessarily think of Jeffers’ “original sin” in a literal way like Creationists take their original sin—an unbroken chain of corruption. I just think that it is an illustration of the negative effect on our psyches of technology and conscious thought.

    “I do not believe, however, that these poems are two halves of a whole….”

    Not even two parts of a greater whole? There’s no room for Jeffers’ (and my) perspective?

  10. Angele Ellis says:

    Dearest Andrew,

    I don’t want to recapitulate old and intractable arguments in re our perspectives on human beings and other animals, so I’ll just respond to the final lines of your latest post:

    “‘I do not believe, however, that these poems are two halves of a whole….’

    Not even two parts of a greater whole? There’s no room for Jeffers’ (and my) perspective?”

    When I wrote that phrase, I was thinking of Wallace Stevens’s lines from “The Man With the Blue Guitar”:

    I cannot bring a world quite round,
    Although I patch it as I can.

    I sing a hero’s head, large eye
    And bearded bronze, but not a man,

    Although I patch him as I can
    And reach through him almost to man…

    Yes, there is room for Jeffers’s perspective–and yours–and everyone’s. What I was trying to say is that Jeffers’s poem and Rukeyser’s poem don’t make a neat, coherent whole–“here’s the scene of primal bloody sadistic conquest on one side, and here’s the scene of primal peaceful artistic creation on the other side…”

    I was also trying, I think, to point out the limitations of ANY viewpoint, and of language and art themselves. “Although I patch him as I can/And reach through him ALMOST TO MAN…” (emphasis added).

    • staringatangels says:

      I see–I’m glad you’re not excluding us misanthropes and inhumanists.

      I’ve read a few more of Jeffers’ poems, and I continue to be impressed; in fact, I think “Original Sin” is the weakest of those I’ve read so far. “Hurt Hawks” and “The Purse-Seine” are particularly powerful. Again, I’m only going by a small amount of poems, but I get more of a sense of moral indignation, a longing for humility, and reverence of nature than a hatred at humanity. Perhaps, like me, he feels disgust at his own species from time to time, but is that disgust all-pervasive?

      Here’s a quotation from “Hurt Hawks” that I feel is important:
      “The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those/That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.//You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;/Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;/Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him.”

      I took a look at where he lived–Tor House and Hawk Tower are beautiful!

      http://www.torhouse.org/

      His poetry can be viewed here:

      Academy of American Poets
      http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/199

      Modern American Poetry
      http://www..uiuc.edu/maps/poets/g_l/jeffers/jeffers.htm

      Poem Hunter
      http://www.poemhunter.com/robinson-jeffers/

  11. Don says:

    Well, sorry it has taken me so long to get back. Though we are still a long ways off, I am up to my eyeballs in Jeffers I agree Andrew that of the other poems you mention here, “Original Sin” is probably the least impressive, though still a solid poem.

    It seems clear that what we have in Jeffers is someone to whom philosophy and personal belief is all-pervasive. I am very struck by the man’s passion – to care enough to be this and (I’m using this term in a positive way) righteous is in some ways refreshing. Right or wrong, there is an unabashed honesty about the man; he is a truth seeker in the classical sense.

    Andrew, your original observation that inhumanism is a better term than misanthrope is spot-on. Though sometimes the positive things Jeffers says about humans seem begrudging, he does have positive things to say, all be they couched in otherwise negative surroundings. I’ve read about 40 of the major short poems and their consistency and level of commitment to a personal philosophy is remarkable.

    In addition, there is a level of complexity to his work that at first eluded me. I’ve done quite a bit of work on one of his most famous poems (“Shine, Perishing Republic”) and what at first to me seemed something of a straightforward, pointed screed now appears to me to be anything but. I’m not going to delve into this one at the moment – need to save something for the discussion!

    This may sound odd but I really feel that, ultimately both of you actually essentially agree – you seem to be describing the same coin from different sides. This thought doesn’t preclude you, Andrew, essentially liking and being attracted to Jeffers and you, Angele, being somewhat put off by his approach and stance, though you share some common opinions about the nature of man.

    “Rock and Hawk” is a poem of such amazing economy – it seems not a word is wasted. Mankind seems, until the last two lines, is almost beside the point. Not negative on Jeffers part, just indifferent until those last lines. Which makes me think what is the point if in someway to communicate to his fellow humans what he believes might ultimately save them. Sure it’s stated in the negative – success and pride are not the routes to travel. Is that message so different than Cummings and Frost and Dickinson?

    Well, I’m running out of lunch time! Angele, I agree 100% that the Jeffers and Rukeyser poems do not represent opposite poles. I’ve come to see a complexity in Jeffers that I didn’t notice at first.

    I suspect that complexity is in all of us. It is the true test of our natures. I’m not sure Jeffers would disagree. He might rail a little louder and his spirit be threaded with invective but I’ll say it – I believe he believed in human beings. I think he despaired over the fact that they didn’t believe in anything else, most especially the elemental world that surrounds them.

    Don

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