the human race has one really effective weapon

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“Contact! Contact!”

detail from Robert Rauschenberg's "Mother of God" (ca. 1950)

detail from Robert Rauschenberg’s “Mother of God” (ca. 1950)

Henry David Thoreau, from The Maine Woods:

What is it to be admitted to a museum, to see a myriad of particular things, compared with being shown some star’s surface, some hard matter in its home! I stand in awe of my body, this matter to which I am bound has become so strange to me. I fear not spirits, ghosts, of which I am one—that my body might— but I fear bodies, I tremble to meet them. What is this Titan that has possession of me? Talk of mysteries!—Think of our life in nature—daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it—rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! The solid earth! The actual world! The common sense! Contact! Contact! Who are we? Where are we?

This little passage caught me off guard. You can almost feel Thoreau trembling a little when he writes “Contact! Contact!” Almost as if his heart is breaking at the idea. Or maybe that’s just a modern reading of it—contact can sometimes feel like a miracle.