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Why we mourn a tree that has been cut down

Image result for google image stump of tree cut down

Why do we mourn a tree when it is cut down? It is only a thing, not a person, and the carpenter will probably put the wood to good use. And yet when we look at a stump in the grass, most of us are overcome with sadness. Something beautiful has gone – centuries of history reconstituted as a bedside table.
Roger Scruton calls this the politics of “attachment”. In his new book, How To Be a Conservative, the philosopher argues that conservatism is an instinct to preserve things that have been around a very long time – things that are useful or things that are elevating even if they are financially worthless. In many ways it is the opposite of materialist, although the Right’s contemporary leadership seems strangely unaware of its sentimental side.

Conservatism is less interested in where we are going than in where we’ve come from – how the past shapes our identity as individuals. We grieve for the felled tree because we climbed it as children and because it’s part of our landscape and home – and, thus, part of who we are. If the price of progress is demolishing our past then it’s not worth paying.

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