Walden is the novel by H.D. Thoreau. H. D. Thoreau was a philosopher that comes from the transcendentalism movement. Transcendentalism came out during around the 1820’s-1830’s. It was basically revolt or a little movement against political & social climate during America during that time. The movement focused a lot on individualism and about living off your own means and living more simply. Also, the entire abolitionist movement, anti-slavery, came from that whole school of thought. It was in contradiction of the conventional religious establishment too. This is the manifest ideology. The established white male has the right to conquer and take over America. Transcendentalism was against that. It was more about the spiritual or mystical kind about the religion. It also took in many Hinduism and also other Eastern philosophies. And so, we have Thoreau who is from that whole movement.
Walden is a story or autobiography of his experiences. He had this disdain for society at the time where he was living, Concord Massachusetts. So, he makes the decision to just leave civilization for short time & build his personal cabin & woods. H. D. Thoreau wanna experiment & see what that was he can gain from that and what he could take from that experience, the whole living on your own away from society.
How’s that gonna work? It’s a beautiful tale. It’s really a great experience to read because there’s a good lesson for readers. So, the 1st chapter of book is called “Economy” and that’s what Thoreau is dropping dimes. And you are gonna get too much information, lots of useful philosophy. You will understand his thought of what he actually worries that the world & how he gauges society.
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In this book, he is discussing why he went towards woods because he’s making effort to escape all that what “civilized society” has to offer and just to live simply in a way more simply & to take away from distractions.
Some of the things apply so accurately today. When you read that you might imagine about smartphones, laptops, social media. These things are great tools. Conversely, we forget that these things aren’t really essential. We are capable to do many things without them. Sometimes they can be hindrances. He also talks about social constructs; jobs, careers, clubs, organizations, that focus more on the superficial things than what you’re doing or what you actually are. We just need to give emphasis to such things. What are we doing and who we really are and are not much worried about what we project out toward other people. That’s not really important. But in society of today, we have to focus a lot on the image and how we must portray ourselves. Is that really important? Thoreau argues no.
We really don’t have to worry about failure, just pursue the ultimate goal. Pursue your dreams! many individuals settle in life. Many individuals settle a job, a career, a vocation, or end up doing little to nothing because they’re afraid to fail. But failing is not the issue. The issue is the journey. Trying even though you’re failing. It’s better to aim towards a thing which you actually are passionate about or really feel strongly toward and fail than to get a thing which you really don’t care. Achievement is actually not as significant as pursuing your dreams.
The writer also talks about Individualism in Walden. He is also discussing the matter of settling for Less and living simply because in this society, even today, we’re focusing much on luxury and really high-end possessions that everybody has, we’re really fighting in contradiction of one another. Instead, we must live simpler, living with less then we have more room to achieve more.
And here he backs it up:
“But lo, man have become tools of their tools.”
You get sealed into these luxury items whether it’s in debt, financially you’re just paying lots of money for these high-end products. You become tools of these things. Or the tools themselves become kind of system, like some type of machine. For example, people say media is like a machine. It’s not media itself but the wrong belief people have of the media, which keeps people in a cycle of the falsehood.
“We now no longer camp for the night but have stable on the Earth & forgotten Heaven.”
That’s a pretty powerful quote from Walden. I like that a lot. Even thinking about from the Christian standpoint, you understand the world where we live today is temporary. And heaven is where we wanna go. That’s where we ultimately want to head toward but society is making us believe what’s important is luxury items and materialism causes us to forget about that. We forget that all these materials are temporary. We’re too much focusing on the material and we are not actually focused on what’s really important which is each other. And doing virtuous for one another rather than doing useful to get these materials.
He drives this point even further:
“The civilized man is a more experienced and wiser Savage.”
We fool ourselves into thinking, we all have this technology, we have all these conveniences that make us not savages. But actually, what’s the Savage? It’s a person who only cares about themselves and doesn’t really consider other people. That’s really what my mind is Savage is, you said the “civilized man” is technologically advanced. No, not really. A “civilized man” is the one who is doing virtuous for society. These tools, materialism, is blocking that.
“I thus found that a student who makes wishes for a shelter can get one for a lifetime & an expenditure not greater than rent which he now pays annually.”
So, Thoreau builds his cabin and he calculates how much it costs him to build. $28.12. In today’s money that’s about 685$. He built a house for 685$. Granted it’s a simple cabin. But he is actually not in debt. He lives in this home, he is not comfortable. It’s not luxurious but he has all that he needs.
So, he challenges you, the reader, by asking: what in this life do you wanna achieve really?
“Those conveniences which the student requires at Cambridge or elsewhere cost him or anyone else 10 times as great as the sacrifice of life as they would with appropriate management on both sides.”
He’s just using this as an example. You go a Cambridge or a “prestigious” University and you’re costing heavy money when you may possibly go to school that’s not so prestigious, spend less money and get the same, if not better education because you’re not focused so much on the prestige. This is the example of us of having emphasized on the luxury of an item we forget really what is important that is an education in this example. It is an ability that helps us to learn about new things or that might help us in helping each other in life. It’s all the same.
“You my brothers I wish you to spent your life in doing something best in life than ruining it on this dirt.”
He’s referring to digging in the dirt to make the foundation for his cabin and how incredible that experience was for him, to build his own house, to have this shelter that he made, living by himself on means and what that teaches you and what you can gain from that. He wishes you to have a great and nice experience than that. But no, you’re not at all close because you’re spending so much money on pre-made houses that aren’t really necessary. You are leaving the whole purpose for what it means to actually live in the home.
Further, in the test, Thoreau starts dropping less dime and talks about how he lives by himself but also encounters several people. He doesn’t shun himself from all human contact whatsoever. He meets a few people like a few people now and then. And he returned back to his town from time to time when he stayed in woods. He talks about society in a way general & makes observation.
Then he moves to the description of the area where he is living which is very beautiful. He discusses pond, and how the seasons change the pond. How it gets frozen. Then he starts speaking about how his company came in, many individuals who were trying for harvesting ice to sell but it didn’t work out. His method of telling it is pretty cool. So, it is not an actual thing that makes him alone from people. He just wanna be skilled enough to have the experience of living by himself without financial burden. Living simply & focusing on the more vital things in the life.
Then he concludes. He really starts dropping those philosophical dimes again in his conclusion, that is the final portion of Walden.
In the last portion of Walden, he basically discusses the false realities. My method of interpreting it the way we put ourselves in these false realities where we lock ourselves up. Debt is the example we’ve been using, but not just that. More so obligation. For example, you marry someone because the person that you wanna get married to. But then the marriage started going bad because you realize you didn’t really marry this person as you loved them, you married the person, just to walk down the aisle. You get trapped in this thinking of marrying or this thinking of having a lovely house. But you’re in tremendous debt, or this thinking of having this prestigious degree, etc. you are just entangled in these fabrications that society actually creates for us.
And Thoreau is telling us to take the step-back & really think about why we are doing. Is it because of what society says is good, these false constructs society is pushing onto us? What’s really important? What we could be doing is what ultimately leads us to happiness, not make us richer or look more luxurious. Just get happy with the possessions you have. And also, what Thoreau is saying is that despite any hardship you have it’s always a learning experience. There will always be something more good that you may take from even the poorest life. Don’t always go after the easy life but the luxurious life or a utopia, or this “American Dream” life because even then like people will criticize.
“Even the evil finding finds evil even paradise.”
You end-up where you think about your ultimate destination but then it becomes clear out there’re all these other problems you need to deal with. “No money, no problems” That’s where that quote comes from. So, don’t focus so much on trying to aim toward a paradise. Focus on what really is happiness.
Society tells you to get the newest application, get the newest items, get the newest clothes. But by really focusing, there’re many things that you own that you can use toward your happiness. If you truly are gonna do this, if you use the friends that you can possess and the things for being thankful, if you focus on that then you’re not gonna want to hear about the society is showing to you anymore because you find out the things that you have can bring bundle of happiness already.
You try and get better and you focus so much on improvement, especially material improvement, and all of this just fades away. In the end, what we’re left are the relations we have with one another & the things that bring happiness which is related to the spirit.
The whole thought & idea of living simply and what you could get from doing that. Not liking up the materialism or what society says is good. But rather concentrating on what you actually think is good and how you contemplate you should live and learn from yourself. Watching inside instead of outward. Walden is a great read that focuses a lot on that. I think if everybody were to read this book this world might have been a better world. That’s my opinion. It gives us too much to think about.
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