...Why should of all things man unruled
Such unproportioned dwellings build?
The beasts are by their dens exprest,
And birds contrive an equal nest;
The low-roofed tortoises do dwell
In cases fit of tortoise-shell:
No creature loves an empty space;
Their bodies measure out their place.
But he, superfluously spread,
Demands more room alive than dead;
And in his hollow palace goes
Where winds as he themselves may lose.
What need of all this marble crust
T' impark the wanton mote of dust,
That thinks by breadth the world t' unite
Though the first builders failed in height?...
--from Andrew Marvell's Upon Appleton House, 1651--
I wonder sometimes why we humans feel like we need bigger and better buildings--or anything else for that matter--when nature provides ample evidence of why living lean is better. The praying mantis I found at Rend Lake merely molts when it begins to grow too large for its exoskeleton. Well, since we have endoskeletons, molting might not work very well for us. Nevertheless, this living-large syndrome seems to have gotten a lot of us (at least Americans) into financial trouble. Maybe we should all emulate the example of this motivated biped, The Walking Man, who relies on the kindness of strangers for most of his needs and rests his head at the end of the day wherever he happens to run out of steam. Or, maybe not.
And so the reliance on Property, including the reliance on governments which protect it, is the want of self-reliance. Men have looked away from themselves and at things so long, that they have come to esteem what they call the soul's progress, namely, the religious, learned, and civil institutions, as guards of property, and they deprecate assaults on these, because they feel them to be assaults on property. They measure their esteem of each other, by what each has, and not by what each is. But a cultivated man becomes ashamed of his property, ashamed of what he has, out of new respect for his being. Especially, he hates what he has, if he sees that it is accidental--came to him by inheritance, or gift, or crime; then he feels that it is not having; it does not belong to him, has no root in him, and merely lies there, because no revolution or no robber takes it away. But that which a man is, does always by necessity acquire, and what the man acquires is permanent and living property, which does not wait the beck of rulers, or mobs, or revolutions, or fire, or storm, or bankruptcies, but perpetually renews itself wherever the man is put. "Thy lot or portion of life,' said the Caliph Ali, "is seeking after thee; therefore be at rest from seeking after it."
--from Ralph Waldo Emerson's Self-Reliance, 1841--
...'Tis not, what it once was, the World,
But a rude heap together hurled;
All negligently overthrown,
Gulfs, deserts, precipices, stone.
Your lesser World contains the same...
--Upon Appleton House--