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September 5, 1980

The Tender Touch of Triviality

JAMA. 1980;244(10):1134. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310100052036

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"The people along the sand/All turn and look one way./They turn their back on the land./They look at the sea all day." These lines from Robert Frost's "Neither Out Far Nor in Deep" evoke images of people, who, satiated with mundane sights of the land, look to the sea for wider horizons and purer visions. Are they perchance trying to discern answers to eternal questions—life and mortality, permanence and evanescence, determination and free will—in the changing pattern of the waves or the ebb and flood of the tides?

Before answering these questions, let us see if we can validate Frost's observation. Do people "along the sand," in fact, look at the sea all day? We rather doubt it. Strollers along the ocean sidewalk in Brighton or the boardwalk in Atlantic City will note that most of the benches along the sand are turned not toward the sea, but toward the