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Thoreau

Thoreau
October 23, 2007, 11:53:51 AM
I've been taking a class at my university about Thoreau, and since I see the word "transcendentalism" thrown around quite a bit on this site, I assume you all know something about him (and Emerson of course, but I'll leave him out simply because I know much more about Thoreau). From what I can tell about transcendentalism, one of their main ideas is that one must work hard in physical labor in order to "cultivate" their intellect. Thoreau built his house on Walden Pond, tried to live on his own by his own means, and even planted a bean field solely for the purpose of keeping busy with physical labor. Before he started staying at Walden, he would work vigorously 2 months out of the year so that he could sustain himself the rest of the year while in his intellectual pursuits. Something that like-minded contemporaries of his missed was the need for individualism. The utopian community of Brook Farm was founded on similar principles about hard work, but it failed because of the socialist nature in which everyone worked for each other and received the same pay no matter how much they worked. Thoreau was famously known as a nature lover, but not many people realize how knowledgeable of a naturalist and geologist he was, as well.

So the reason I'm posting this is because I'm curious as to what you all know about Thoreau, and what you think of his ideals. From what I've read about him, his attitudes towards intellectual endeavors are very similar to some that I've seen espoused on this site. Also, my classmates don't like Thoreau very much because he's not "cool", since we read an article written by my professor describing Thoreau's attitude towards the masses and ordinary people, even telling off a friend who walked many miles to visit him at Walden by saying he "has no time for friends." I want to know what people who are actually interested in Thoreau have to say about him.

Re: Thoreau
October 23, 2007, 10:26:05 PM
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So the reason I'm posting this is because I'm curious as to what you all know about Thoreau, and what you think of his ideals. From what I've read about him, his attitudes towards intellectual endeavors are very similar to some that I've seen espoused on this site. Also, my classmates don't like Thoreau very much because he's not "cool", since we read an article written by my professor describing Thoreau's attitude towards the masses and ordinary people, even telling off a friend who walked many miles to visit him at Walden by saying he "has no time for friends." I want to know what people who are actually interested in Thoreau have to say about him.


I like the transcendental parts, but Nietzsche was more important. Thoreau was cool because he lived by his ideals, even if some were stupid (pacifism). Emerson inspired Nietzsche. I haven't read enough Thoreau recently to tell you more but I think he's an important historical figure.

Fuck the masses!

Re: Thoreau
October 24, 2007, 12:09:47 AM
I wrote his name on Google and found some quotes.

"A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone."

"Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something."

I think I like this guy. Sure will read him.

Re: Thoreau
October 24, 2007, 03:24:30 AM
One thing with him is the complete simplicity of his writing...no pretensions whatsoever, yet gets the point across.

Re: Thoreau
October 24, 2007, 05:34:36 AM
I know he had a significant effect on me in high school, but it was more of a "thank goodness someone thinks like me," than "whoa, this guy's totally changing my outlook."  I have to admit that I haven't read a word since...  I'd have to say that  Jack London's "Call of the Wild" had a much bigger influence on me personally, but probably only because I read it much earlier.  Only later did I realize that London combined the ideas of Thoreau, Darwin, and Nietzsche into a single easy to read novel.

Re: Thoreau
October 30, 2007, 11:58:42 PM
I started reading Walden, it grows on me. I can relate to this guy farely easily. He gets his points accross quite well.

Re: Thoreau
October 31, 2007, 12:15:20 PM
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One thing with him is the complete simplicity of his writing...no pretensions whatsoever, yet gets the point across.


It's interesting that you say this, because I find his writing quite dense and complex. Every sentence seems so well crafted and full of meaning, he really was an amazing writer. This may be why is so misunderstood. My classmates call him a hypocrite because he relied completely on Emerson to live, and that he wasn't really alone and isolated in the woods like people think. They don't realize that this was like an experiment for Thoreau, and it doesn't matter that he didn't own the land and such. He lived by his ideals, surely felt connected and joyful towards nature, and wrote a great piece of literature about it. That's what really counts.

Re: Thoreau
October 31, 2007, 05:09:19 PM
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It's interesting that you say this, because I find his writing quite dense and complex. Every sentence seems so well crafted and full of meaning, he really was an amazing writer. This may be why is so misunderstood. My classmates call him a hypocrite because he relied completely on Emerson to live, and that he wasn't really alone and isolated in the woods like people think. They don't realize that this was like an experiment for Thoreau, and it doesn't matter that he didn't own the land and such. He lived by his ideals, surely felt connected and joyful towards nature, and wrote a great piece of literature about it. That's what really counts.


To clarify what I meant, in any page of Walden, we will see a man who says in a plain and orderly way what is on his mind. And if you know the history of Walden, Thoreau rewrote this I believe 8 times to make sure that it is free of clutter and noise. That is indeed why every sentence is so well crafted - he made sure that it was. I think what you are referring to by the denseness/complexity is the sense of journey when you read his work (let me stick to Walden here). And in that way it is indeed complex. In fact, I would say Walden is the richest travel book I have ever read, even though the story itself only goes a mile out of town.

Dunkelheit

Re: Thoreau
November 01, 2007, 02:33:08 AM
I think I will take Walden out at my university's library and give it a read. Sounds like an interesting experiment into radical traditionalism.

Re: Thoreau
November 02, 2007, 09:21:45 AM
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radical traditionalism.


I wouldn't call it that, though surely he bears some similarity...transcendentalist Romanticism is probably suitable.

The transcendentalists are much too pantheist to be "radical traditionalists" in the sense most around here use.