A few days ago, Auster posted a short but classic bit on a well spent autumn day: “Fall in New York.”
Today was New York City at its best—sparkling, clear, alive. After a very satisfactory mid-afternoon lunch at a neighborhood restaurant, a female friend and I walked down the east side of Broadway to get the sun, then over to the Fireman’s Monument on upper Riverside Drive and 100th Street, then down to the west side of lower Riverside Drive where we sat on a bench looking at the elms and sycamores and the grassy slope across from us lit up with the late afternoon sun. There was a big elm, its trunk spotted with shadows from the tree’s own leaves. I said, “Except that there’s no melody, this reminds me of, ‘in some melodious plot / Of beechen green, and shadows numberless’” (from Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale”). My friend, who is a literary critic, replied, “It was good when poets were closer to nature, then they had something to write about other than themselves.”
I think that such is very true of philosophers, as well—both those who focus on nature and those who focus on man. Nature may love to hide, but having an acquaintance with her is useful for protecting oneself from stupid ideas.