Thursday, July 14, 2011

thoreau and emerson

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Henry David Thoreau wrote in chapter of Waldon

Time is but a stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. It’s thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom are pebbly with stars. I cannot count one. I know not the first letter of the alphabet. I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born. The intellect is a cleaver; it discerns and rifts its way into then secret of things. I do not wish to be any more busy with my hands than is necessary. My head is hands and feet. I feel all my best faculties concentrated in it. My instincts tell me my head is an organ for burrowing, as some creatures use their snout and fore-paws, and with it I will mine and burrow my way through these hills. I think that the richest vein is somewhere hereabouts; so by the divining rod and thin rising vapors I judge; and here I will begin to mine.

In this passage, Thoreau is trying to Understand the complexities of our lives, as well as that of the time we spend here. He begins by comparing time to a stream, an ever-flowing endless body of water, yet he is still able to see the bottom. In saying this, I gather he is comparing his life span (the distance to the bottom) to the ever-flowing body of time. He is telling us our life is but a short period in the stream of time. It is important to understand that we are not as significant as we would like to believe. Thoreau believes the only way to cut through this insignificance is to use our intellect like a “cleaver”.

Cut through the all of the social mores and beliefs that have jaded our view on this wonderful world in which we live. To cut through our own faults and fears and discover the vein of truth that is within us all. He teaches us not to bother with unnecessary busy work, and focus on the more important things in our lives. To do this, is to become timeless like the stream in which he drinks. We must trust our inner most instincts to guide us through this journey of life.

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We all experience times in our lives when the world seems like and endless pit of despair. It seems that there is no hope for happiness again. This reminds me of a significant time in my life, a time of fear and despair. It happened a few years ago, I was young and dumb. I got my head and heart all wrapped up in a young woman. At the time, this girl was the world to me. She was everything I always wanted in a woman and more, or so I thought. As time marched on, as it always does, I started to realize that my life was no longer my own. Everything I was doing was to please this one girl. I no longer had my own identity, only a shadow of her. This continued for a while. Finally, one day I realized my life had to change. At this point, I had already given up on a chance to move away to college, I was battling with a severe case of depression, and starting to go a bit further in debt than one would have liked. The realization of all this changed me profoundly. I began to look inside myself. When I did this, I saw a strong young man. A man who could stand on his own two feet. A man who could take on the world with just his mind. I realized that life was to short to be miserable all the time, to short not to live at all.

As Thoreau did, I followed my instincts and my head. This led me down the path I currently take. The path of inner knowledge which leads to that endless stream.

From reading this paragraph, I have gained a somewhat different out look on myself. I realize that we are only on this earth for a few short years. However, I have come to understand the fact that we have to live our lives by what is right for us, not what others tell us we should do. If we live by others expectations, we also live by their limitations as well. We must transcend the mental oppressions of this scattered and chaotic world, and dig deep within ourselves to discover the real truths. Our life is our own, time is short, discover the truth inside yourself, for this is the only way to be truly happy in this world of ours.

But the beauty of Nature Which is seen and felt as beauty, is the least part. The shows of day, the dewy morning, the rainbow, mountains, orchards in blossom, stars, moonlight, shadows in still water, and the like, if too eagerly hunted, become shows merely, and mock us with there unreality. Go out of the house to see the moon, and t is mere tinsel; it will not please as when its light shines upon your necessary journey. The beauty that shimmers in the yellow afternoons of October, who ever could clutch it? Go forth to find it, and it is gone ‘t is only a mirage as you look from the windows of the diligence.

In this passage from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Nature, Emerson explains to us that we cannot chase the beauty of nature. He portrays the fact that the true beauty is almost circumstantial. When we search for the beauty in nature it will always elude us. He tells us to appreciate the times when we happen onto the true wonders of nature. A cool breeze on a hot summer’s day, a bright moon lit night when you are alone in the dark or the songs of spring after a long harsh winter. These are the true beauties of nature. These are the moments to be treasured. There is a good lesson to be learned from this wisdom, and it can be related to our everyday lives as well.

We must learn to appreciate the small, otherwise insignificant, beauties that surround us. A smile from a stranger, a helping hand, a friend. These are the things that matter. We find ourselves so hung up in this fast paced, interactive, and instantaneous lifestyle, that we forget about the truly important things in this life. I know on many occasions I let a good thing or two slips by because I was to caught up in this world of ours. If we could only see things the way we did when we were a child. Remember the times when the whole world was filled with amazing new things. No matter how simple or complicated something was it all held a little magic. I think that is partly what Emerson was getting at, the magic. I believe he is trying teach us how to regain that magic. To understand that the world is truly a wonderful and amazing place. A place full of beauty. Just recently, I started to realize this myself. I woke up from a daze I had been in for a few years now. A daze of laziness and comfortability. I awoke to realize that I could not just sit here and let things pass me by. We have to seize the moment, make the best out of what we have, and appreciate life all the while. I started to realize that I must begin each day anew, and end it with a prayer.

This quote helped me to understand the meaningfulness of life’s small wonders. It made me think of the important things that pass me by. When I read this, it made me stop and think about the things that should be making a difference in my life. It made me feel as if I should relax my mind and let my soul guide me. To experience the world in a much different fashion.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.

Thoreau realized in this passage from Walden, chapter 1, that we as a society hold back our true intentions. He informs us that we live in “quiet desperation”, By this he means we repress our genuine desires. Our desires to harness our true potential. We fear the unknown; therefore, we do not try. A wise being named Yoda once said, “try … there is no try… there is only do or do not.” If we could only live by this wisdom, we could overcome most, if not all, our mental barriers. We could open our minds to the world around us, and absorb its knowledge. However, we can only do this if we abolish our resignations. Thoreau finishes with saying “But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” In this line he is not instructing us to sit idly by, actually it is quite to the contrary. Thoreau is teaching us to not confuse wisdom with passiveness and unassertiveness. He is trying to get us to take charge of our lives and do the things we fear doing. He attempts to stimulate and motivate the reader to go a bit outside the lines. To experiment with life a little. Not to hold ourselves back with mental gripes.

We all experience times when we are afraid to try something other than what we are used to. We are afraid to expand beyond our own shores and travel into deeper waters. I am going through a time right now of uncertainty in my life. I am afraid to move forward, because I do not know where it leads. I am not happy with where I am at because I know I can be better off. Ironically, I am better off than most. I feel as if the biggest problem with our world today, myself included, is we are too comfortable. We torture ourselves working meaningless jobs, having menial conversations, and living lack-luster lives just because it’s easier than trying something new. When is the last time you really took a chance? I can’t really remember a time. I think this is what Thoreau is getting at. Instead of living in resignation, we should be out bettering ourselves. We know what we have to do. It is just a matter of actually rustling up the courage to do it. I am slowly learning that we must do the best with the time that is given to us. Death is always lurking in the shadows. We could go at any time, so why not do something worth while.

Confucius said, ”To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, this is true knowledge.” This statement truly engulfs most of what I am trying to portray to you. Our understanding of ourselves and this wondrous world around us, is the only knowledge we need. If we try to understand the underlying dynamics of Thoreau, we can start to live lives that are more satisfying. If we refuse to take chances, we will never learn. If we never gain knowledge we will never gain wisdom, and in turn never gain true happiness. I have gained the understanding that that true wisdom comes from within me. I only have to let my insecurities free to obtain it. I believe Thoreau himself summed it up best when he said, “When one man has reduced a fact of the imagination to be a fact of his understanding, I foresee that all men will at length establish their lives on that basis.”

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