Summary of “The Newfoundland Conundrum”
“Everything was better back when everything was worse.”
In his essay “The Newfoundland Conundrum”, taken from the book “The Iambics of Newfoundland”, Robert Finch translates the experiences of an associate writer’s unique travels that left him with a very real and complex idea of finding ‘salvation’ in nature. The essay takes away the looking glass in which we perceive the world from our ‘gregarious’ and ‘technological’ lifestyles, and draws the reader to look into a seemingly uncomfortable and distant world where the people’s main source of reliance was put not on the things seen, but on things unseen, as a source of satisfaction. The direct conundrum the essay describes was due to the paradox encountered with the realization that the very technological advances we strive for (inevitably necessary and undeniably predictable in the evolution of mans race) are the very thing sapping satisfaction from life and add to our ever growing neuroses that technology makes life easier.
The essay explores the relationship these distant, ill-resourced out-ports achieved with nature and the “psyche” that enabled them to maintain an appreciation and satisfaction for life that is unusual considering their circumstances. He explains how unsatisfied life seemed to be despite the level of comfort experienced living among his urban populace, surrounded with technological amenities that reduced these harsh realities of survival to nil. Life was harsh and relentless for these people, and examples of the natural tendency to escape those realities were evident as seen in the push to Confederate with Canada as referendums passed to aid in making a life easier. This, the author notes, is part of the evolutionary process and these very hardships are what propel man to achieve technological advances- the very advances that we depend on to make life easier are what make true satisfaction out of reach.
In summary, the essay gives us an indirect glimpse into the benefits of struggling for survival and why gratitude and salvation is prevalent in those who struggle to survive, and why it is in many today that satisfaction with comfortable and easy lifestyles is just out of reach. Delayed gratification is the only way that allows for a deep contrast so we can full take satisfaction in achieving any goal or surviving any hardship.