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“A Fearful Risk”

November 19, 2018

A memorable passage from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Wakefield”:

Amid the seeming confusion of our mysterious world, individuals are so adjusted to a system, and systems to one another, and to the whole, that, by stepping aside for a moment, a person exposes himself to a fearful risk of losing his place forever.

(Hawthorne’s protagonist, married, steps outside one evening and—on a whim—decides not to come home quite yet. He puts off return to his life and marriage for an hour or two, a day or two, a week or two, until he’s living within sight of his old house, anonymous. Twenty years later, again on a whim, he returns.)