Friday, May 28, 2010

Simply Solitude.

Thoreau did indeed return to society. His two years spent at Walden Pond were not a cakewalk. Neal left a comment in the previous post that suggested I read Thoreau's First Year at Walden Fact & Fiction. Thoreau was never a hermit and he certainly He lived on his best friend Ralph Waldo Emerson's woodlot and welcomed the Emerson visitors and family members on a daily occurrence. The Hawthornes and Alcotts visited him during the two years there. Thoreau wanted to live a solitary life but that is not to be confused with "solitude". He did enjoy meals at the homes of family and friends. Thoreau lived at Walden for two years to escape society. He was productive in all aspects: farming, building, writing, contemplating, and meditating. The escape from the world is what he needed to accomplish a work so cherished by many modern day Thoreauvians. Thoreau did not shun society as seen how he welcomed it even as he lived a "solitary" lifestyle. Returning to live in the modern world was imperative. The social conundrums and confusions of the world were his muses. The problems Americans faced invoked him to pen one of his greatest revolutionizing masterpieces "Civil Disobedience" which has had a tremendous effect for over150 years.

I do not think that Thoreau would immerse himself in the world of technology, including having a cell phone or even using Emerson's for that matter. He lived a life free of dependence. The cell phone would be seen as how he viewed the railroad system:

If we do not get out the sleepers, and forge rails, and devote days and nights to the work, but go to tinkering upon our lives to improve them, who will build railroads? And if railroads are not built, how shall we get to heaven in season? But if we stay home and mind our business, who will want railroads? We do not ride on the railroad; it rides upon us.

Technology helps us to move faster and more efficiently than ever before. They allow us to "get to heaven in season". However, as technology quickens, we must ourselves move faster to keep up with it. Honestly, what is the point of buying the new iPad right now or even a new iPod when you know that in a couple of months (seems like weeks) they have the new best thing out there and you're left jilted and craving the new one. Jack Johnson sings a song that speaks Thoreau's ideology "if we stay home and mind our business" singing "I got no time/that I got to get to/where I don't need to be" ("Breakdown"). Thoreau bemoans the railroad and yet lived a very productive life within and without society (hence Walden).The easy life, the simple life for Johnson includes living life on the waves, living simply. Lives lived simply, filled with meaning, and capable of supporting their lifestyles.

The two years that Thoreau spent at Walden Pond were not spent in isolation. They were years spent in solitude. And although solitude is a synonym for isolation, look at the meanings. He was not "isolated" because he had visitors, went into town, ate with Emerson's family. He lived two years in "solitude" because he was void of living in the society. James left some quotes in the last post Thoreau "had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one." Living in solitude was a chapter in his life he needed. Escaping from society allowed him to return with new philosophy and ideas on the grandeur of life.

(I chose this picture to represent Solitude. Solitude can be spent void of isolation. Notice they are sitting on a bench, somewhat apart from eachother. It looks like there are forms of technology next to the girl on the right, maybe her earphones dangling from her backpack. Solitude: in society but not of society. I'm bending the definition a bit and defining it as solitude is "alone" and "removed from society" but could these two girls be representing solitude of the mind? Sitting on a bench, in silence, at dusk, thinking, meditating, questioning...a moment of solitude.)

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