The lawns of Los Angeles

July 11 2010

At a time when this question of the relation between the Will and Intellect and the Subconscious Psyche was much on the writer’s mind, he found himself in Southern California among the green lawns of Los Angeles. The city is so extensive when measured by the standard of mobility even of the driver of an automobile that the pedestrian visitor is prone to forget that, on the map of the continent as seen by a traveller in an aeroplane, this garden-city which, on the ground, seems boundless, is merely a tiny patch of verdure marooned in the midst of a vast desert. Moreover, the green is so perpetual that the spectator is also prone to forget that it is kept in existence only by a likewise perpetual tour de force. Though on every lawn he sees the sprinklers twisting and turning all day long, he soon comes to take the lawns for granted, as if they had been natural products of a non-existent rainfall. So it gives him a shock when on some vacant lot – kept vacant, perhaps, by a speculator in the hope of rising prices – he sees the savage desert sage-brush bristling up out of a parched and dusty ground. He then realizes that, under the artificial green lawns, the same savage Nature that has here broken its way to the surface is all the time eagerly waiting for an opportunity thus to come into its own again. This is the precarious position of the Intellect and Will.

The gardens of Hofuf (old post).

An Historian’s Approach to Religion, OUP, 1956

2 Responses to “The lawns of Los Angeles”

  1. rwmg Says:

    I can’t find it on google but wasn’t there a film or TV programme or something called “The Lawns of Los Angeles”? It’s definitely ringing bells in my subconscious.

    Incidentally, is it me, or is Toynbee’s prose more convoluted than usual in this passage?

    • davidderrick Says:

      There is something dimly in my mind, too, but I can’t think what. It isn’t The Belles of St Trinian’s, but something with that rhythm.

      Prose pretty much as normal, no? Is “so perpetual” OK in an ironic sentence? This is actually from the book version of a set of lectures.

      The picture, obviously, is Hockney.

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