The Grateful Dead and Philosophy: Getting High Minded about Love and Haight

By Steven Gimbel | Go to book overview

14
Thoreau-ing Stones:
Wildness at the End of the
Natural World

ALLEN THOMPSON

“Throwing Stones” is first an unsettling song, evoking a sense that we sit on the very edge of catastrophe. As the status quo of corrupting socio-economic forces drives morally blind politicians to advance policies that mete out only injustices upon the undeserving, the song portrays a sense not only of great human tragedy but also a sense of an unspeakable ecological tragedy. The world is in chaos, it seems, and all will be consumed and destroyed, as we hear in the repeating chorus, “Ashes, ashes, all fall down … Ashes, ashes, all fall down …”

We find ourselves in a profoundly existential moment (for me this becomes clear when Bobby sings, “the future’s here, we are it, we are on our own.”) As we stare, perhaps enraged, into an apocalyptic future of political ineptitude and environmental disaster we may each ask ourselves, “Here we are. Now what can I do?” If you look around, there are many good answers to this question, things that each of us can do, things we should do, as informed consumers and citizens. (Check out, for example, Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the Twenty-First Century, by Alex Steffen [Abrams, 2006] or www.worldchanging.com.)

But there’s another and still appropriate response, often unappreciated and overlooked, an embodied response to our existential moment: dance and dance wildly, becoming again (if only while the music plays) wild. At least this is the view I will defend, for “in wildness,” says Henry David Thoreau, “is the preservation of the world.”

-163-

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