Last weeks “Literary Thought of the Week” is a little late.
The section of literature is from Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden”. The book is an account of Thoreau’s experience living for 2 years in a cabin he built himself on Walden Pond in 1845. His main objectives for his stay were a life of simplicity and self reliance. By taking himself out of society he was able to look at life from a more objective prospective. The idea of living in nature is one of the concepts I am most retardedly passionate about. There seems to be something true and transcendent about experiencing the world free of all the retardation of society (more on that in a subsequently titled post, “why I am going to die alone in Alaska”)
I started reading this book a little after Christmas this year. There is no book I have ever been more excited about after the first chapter. Yet, after the first chapter I don’t think I have ever had a book that I had more trouble getting through. The first and last chapters were some of the most influential and relevant philosophy I have ever read. The 200 pages in-between those chapters are filled with very long winded descriptions of the simple and arguably boring life he led. The book is fairly arduous, but it wasn’t the difficulty that made it hard. What made it hard seemed to be the fact I could not read more than 2 pages without immediately falling asleep. I still feel like I got a lot out of the book even though it took forever to read (over 2 months for 250 pages). Enough about the fascinating tale of me reading a book.
Here is a paragraph from Walden that I thought was pretty sweet:
“When we consider what, to use the words of the catechism, is the chief end of man, and what are the true necessaries and means of life, it appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode of living because they preferred it to any other. Yet they honestly think there is no choice left. But alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. What every body echoes or is silence passes by as true to-day may turn out to be false-hood to-morrow, mere smoke of opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would sprinkle fertilizing rain on their fields. What old people say you cannot do you try and find that you can. Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new. Old people did not know enough once, perchance, to fetch fresh fuel to keep the fire a-going; new people put a little dry wood under a pot, and are whirled round the globe with the speed of birds, in a way to kill old people , as the phrase is. Age is no better, hardly so well, qualified for an instructor as youth, for it has not profited so much as it has lost. One may almost doubt if the wisest man has learned any thing of absolute value in living. Practically, the old have no very important advice to give the young, their own experiences has been so partial, and their lives have been such miserable failures, for private reasons, as they must believe; and it may be that they have some faith left which belies that experience; and they are only less young than they were. I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors. They have told me nothing, and probably cannot tell me any thing, to the purpose. Here is life, an experiment to a great extent untried by me; bit does not avail me that they have tried it. If I have any experience which I think valuable, I am sure to reflect that this my Mentor said nothing about.”
Well I think Thoreau did a wonderful job explaining some of the strange idiosyncrasies of life in old timey vernacular. I will just throw in a few thoughts I had while rereading it just for good measure.
The beginning hits a pretty interesting idea of how people follow the social norms. A lot of his book is about doing something different with life and experiencing something outside the standard way of life. He makes a really good point that people do choose a common mode of living because they prefer it to any other. The problem though is that people completely discount the fact that there are other options out there. The standard 9 to 5, wife and 2 kids may be a good options for a lot of people, but it is not the only option available. When I think about life I often feel compelled to do something different with my life just for the pure science of it, just to see how it works out. I don’t know a single person on this planet who has not followed the standard life path. I absolutely love the line “Here is life, an experiment to a great extent untried by me”
My second thought is just about the latter part of the paragraph were he goes into how he has not learned anything from his seniors. I really tend to agree with him on this matter. I don’t mean that in the sense of old people are completely retarded (which is certainly a reasonable idea to vigorously support), but in the fact that life is not something to be learned from anyone, it is something to be experienced. Everything I feel actual conviction about in my life is something that I have in someway personally experienced.
Overall Thoreau has some pretty cool ideas and was way ahead of his time as a thinker. To be honest though I cannot in good conscious give my seal of recommendation to the book “Walden” as a whole, or now that I think about it to this post for that matter.
Bonus quote: (this is my favorite quote in the world and my informal life motto, also from Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden”)
“I learned at least this by my experiments. That if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
Well I hope my two Indian fans enjoyed my second attempt to show how fucking awesome it is to read books. I promise it is back to embelished drug stories for my next post.