on Facebook? Urbanization gave way to suburbanization, and with it the universal threat of loneliness. The busy parent can stay in touch with far-flung friends. "God is alone Thoreau said, "but the Devil, he is far from being alone; he sees a great deal essays on designing minds of company; he is legion." The university was to be praised, Emerson believed, if only because it provided its charges with "a separate chamber and fire". In Marilynne Robinson's interpretation, Calvinism created the modern self by focusing the soul inward, leaving it to encounter God, like a prophet of old, in "profound isolation." To her enumeration of Calvin, Marguerite de Navarre, and Milton as pioneering early-modern selves we can add Montaigne.
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One can only save oneself - and whatever else happens, one can still always do that. The person whose influence shook me to the deepest level is a person whose influence is nearly impossible to describe.
Though I shouldn't say taking away. A constant stream of mediated contact, virtual, notional, or simulated, keeps us wired in to the electronic hive - though contact, or at least two-way contact, seems increasingly beside the point. We were lost in space. But as the Internet's dimensionality has grown, it forester thesis has quickly become too much of a good thing. Why is it that the people who influence us most influence us in ways that are not easily quantified? You cannot hear God when people are chattering at you, and the divine word, their pretensions notwithstanding, demurs at descending on the monarch and the priest. Dalloway, between her navigation of the streets and her orchestration of the party, between the urban jostle and the social bustle, Clarissa goes up, "like a nun withdrawing to her attic room. Technology is taking away our privacy and our concentration, but it is also taking away our ability to be alone.