On an Antiquated Spirit of Hope and Democracy


Yes, we exalt at the view offered by the summit of Whiteface Mountain! Here from New York State’s fifth-highest peak we see nothing but a carpet of trees — both deciduous and coniferous — rolling over an ancient, haunted landscape interrupted by exquisite lakes and bands of cirrus clouds that hover ambivalently over the horizon. But it is not just the obvious bliss of our insignificance that literally elevates our thoughts above the more pedestrian concerns that occupy most of our days, but an odd, antiquated sense that money and class distinction are irrelevant up here on this particular mountain. In other words — to put it in crass terms — there is not a corporate logo in sight; not one company has sponsored this “opportunity.”

We are in the clouds: here is a woman, perhaps 120 years old, leaning out of her car to reinforce her hair with a coat of shellac before taking the elevator up to confront the eternal winds up high; here is a group of exceedingly well-behaved children from Quebec chirping in French; here is a thick American biker musing about what a great picture it would make if he could only throw a match down to light all the dead trees of the entire mountain face on fire; here is a desperate housewife posing with her poodle next to the sign marking the elevation of the summit.

For once we are not disposed to petty criticisms; the mountain fills us with an unprecedented sense of kinship toward our our fellow souls, all of whom have traveled the same road as us — built by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s — to reach this utopia. We are reminded of Benjamin’s piece on Moscow in the wake of the revolution; how he romanticized the proletariat and yearned to see a new world arise in the wake of such violence and upheaval! Only here, on the summit of the mountain, do we allow ourselves a similar sense of possibility, a belief that change is imminent and the boundless treasure of the earth will for once be divided equally.

Dog on Summit

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