I finally read (most of) Walden this winter… part of my “adult continuing education” program. 😉 I both liked and hated him. On the one hand, yes, it’s extremely fascinating and in a way, honorable, that he was so committed to the aesthetic experience and so eloquently able to communicate his introspective idealistic philosophies. On the other hand, he kinda seems like the sort of 22 year old pompous idiot that I’d never want to have a conversation with. 🙂 And yet I do agree with many of his statements and conclusions.
Do you know who is a better Thoreau? Levin from Anna Karenina. I know he’s fictional. I know. I know. But of two different men who left their luxurious conditions for a more primitive existence- I felt that while Thoreau came away philosophically more “down to earth,” he never seemed to gain any love for humankind. Maybe I’m wrong. Am I wrong? I’m probably wrong.
I left my suburban/”normal” American life to live in the country- (taking my anthem, quite ironically for me from musical theater- Far from the Home I love) and I’ve learned not only a greater appreciation for living a life more aligned with the natural created world- less plastic, more mud- but I’ve through that learning become more aware of the beauty of mankind- the beauty in the non-Barbies, the un-photographed, the beauty in the ugly masses. That, to me, is solving the true problem of life practically and not theoretically. That I would learn to love the hard to love- the ones I live with, the ones that hurt me, the ones that annoy me, the ones I’ve hurt and the ones I annoy!
But Thoreau lives at a retreat. He lives out his life in solitude and ease of thought- he can be true to his ideals because he doesn’t have to live in deep community.
I’m glad for the influence that Walden and Civil Disobedience have given to our country in terms of the “Yankee” work-love and land-pride. I’m glad for the liberty-loving, ideal-holding values it sets up. But I want a deeper philosophy- not one that is me, standing alone in my bean field- but one that lets me bend my ugly back and cut grain with my fellow ugly men.