Monday, June 7, 2010

Framing the Window

The romantics and the modernists were right to suspect the window frame of standing between ourselves and nature, between us and others, but I suspect they were probably wrong to think this distance could ever be closed. It won't be, not by glass walls, not by flinging windows wide open, not even by blowing up the houses. For even outdoors, even in the pine wood that Thoreau said was his favorite room at Walden, we are still in some irreducible sense outside nature. As Walden itself teaches us, we humans are never simply in nature, like the beasts and trees and boulders, but are always also in relation to nature: looking at it through the frames of our various preconceptions, our personal and collective histories, our self-consciousness, our words. There might be value in breaking frames and pushing toward transparency, as Thoreau and his fellow romantics (the Zen masters too) have urged us to do, but the goal is probably beyond our reach. What other creature, after all, even has a relationship to nature? The window, with its qualified transparency and its inevitable frame, is the sign of this fact of relation, of difference.

--Michael Pollan, A Place of My Own

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