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I’m glad that Dee Cuthbert-Cope and Judith E. Smith found some glimmers of hope in my interview and essay. I regret that Julia Normand found only irritation. It’s evident from her letter that I’m not alone in offending her. She sees fit to lump me with other “people like Sanders” and to call me arrogant for saying that I find some human activities more promising than others. I don’t think it’s arrogant to make distinctions; I think it’s lazy to avoid making them. I feel more respect for a kindergarten teacher than for a race-car driver; I feel more encouraged by organic farming than by bungee jumping. If an activity is wasteful, selfish, or destructive, calling it your path does not make it any less wasteful, selfish, or destructive.
It’s not often that I nod and smile my way through an article, so I’d like to express my appreciation for Scott Russell Sanders’s essay “Body Bright” [February 2000]. A worldview such as his is extremely rare. The general population is frighteningly oblivious to and ignorant of the natural world. Our fellow creatures apparently exist for our amusement or, worse, as an outlet for unspeakable cruelty.
I read Sanders’s essay while eating lunch at my desk at work. I was so inspired that I got up, grabbed my coat, and went for a walk on a seventeen-degree New England afternoon; and I enjoyed every minute of it!
Every time I vow to cancel my subscription to The Sun, I am reminded that you are often the conduit for messages that the world has not seen fit to send me by other means. Just when I am frustrated by the depressing darkness that pervades The Sun, some one in the Readers Write on “Strange Places” [February 2000] wings one in to me like a major-league fastball right down the center. Eunice Valentine’s story, about the importance of an open heart to human growth, outshone Scott Russell Sanders’s unsuccessful attempt to find hope.
Why do people like Sanders feel the need to rain on other people’s parades by condemning as “distractions” the paths we find useful? I believe we each come into this world with a task that is our own. This may include driving a fast car, dangling from an elastic rope, shooting a gun, or riding a mechanical bucking bull. Giving lip service to other ideas, as Sanders does when he says, “I am not condemning human works,” does not erase the arrogant implication that his answer is the only one.