In paragraph 15, T begins to describe man’s relationship to nature. He acknowledges how man puts faith in nature to just work correctly, recognizing that humanity does not understand nature as well as it should. He ends by invoking the notion of miracles, and suggests, through the use of his Confucius quote, that man has adopted a sort of ignorance or stupidity towards the natural world, which in turn seeps into man’s daily life.
T’s claim seems like a logical preface to some of Pope Francis’ claims in Laudato si. Pope Francis calls on man to recognize what he already knows about nature and make political and economic changes based on that knowledge. The Pope rationalizes his suggestions by emphasizing the relationship between humanity and nature, arguing that no matter how far removed we try to make ourselves from the natural world, we are very much a part of it. T sees this inherent connection to the natural world, which is why he calls out his peers for choosing to live in ignorance towards the world around them.
T does not acknowledge the economic and political realities of thinking in such a way, but failing to do so makes sense when considering the state of political development still being carried out in T’s lifetime. Further, the lack of understanding that T describes would, in turn, suggest a lack of knowledge about the specific needs for the persistence of life on Earth.
As we read historically back towards Pope Francis’ encyclical, it is interesting to consider how T is the first writer we have encountered who starts to make specific claims about the philosophical relationship between humanity and nature. Up to this point, the writers we have considered have chosen to primarily reframe the man/nature relationship as a pragmatic concern (Locke) or social-economic issue (Marx). It will be interesting to see if T’s genuine anxiety about the state of this man/nature relationship continues to build as we move closer to Francis’ similar worries.
What I hear Thoreau advocating for most strongly is for us all to listen deeply to the soft voice of nature within us, our “true course,” and to tap into something bigger than us- our connection to everything else in the world. A deep love for all people and things.
September 19, 2018 at 3:42 pm
Posted in: ENGL 203 Geneseo F18
[You who govern public affairs, what need have you to employ punishments? Love virtue, and the people will be virtuous. The virtues of a superior man are like the wind; the virtues of a common man are like the grass; the grass, when the wind passes over it, bends]
Those who hold the hierarchy in society, to what purpose do they govern? Be moral and drenched in goodness and people in which you encounter will be good. The virtue of those in which are superior will always come as priority or law when presented to those not high in the social hierarchy. What could this determine about those who govern and their virtues? Are they in fact virtuous?
See in context
September 19, 2018 at 3:30 pm
[One afternoon, near the end of the first summer, when I went to the village to get a shoe from the cobbler’s, I was seized and put into jail, because, as I have elsewhere related, I did not pay a tax to, or recognize the authority of, the state which buys and sells men, women, and children, like cattle at the door of its senate-house. I had gone down to the woods for other purposes.]
Thoreau here implies his rejecting opinion of slavery and proclaims that he will not support or engage with an entity in which participates in such disgusting capital.
September 19, 2018 at 2:58 pm
This sentence was very shocking that Thoreau dared to compare beans to men. But based of his previous assertive language is it possible Thoreau meant something deeper by this comparison?
September 19, 2018 at 2:40 pm
[ It was a cheap sort of top dressing in which I had entire faith. It was a cheap sort of top dressing in which I had entire faith]
Why does Thoreau repeat this statement?
September 19, 2018 at 2:18 pm
Thoreau seems to suggest that there may be intellects who may not “have the means” of showing such genius to the world because they do not how to, or it could be because structurally they are not allowed to.
September 19, 2018 at 2:12 pm
[He would sometimes exclaim, “How I love to talk! By George, I could talk all day!” I asked him once when I had not seen him for many months, if he had got a new idea this summer. “Good Lord, “said he, “a man that has to work as I do, if he does not forget the ideas he has had, he will do well. May he the man you hoe with is inclined to race; then, by gorry, your mind must be there; you think of weeds.]
In these sentences it seems as though this man is the subject of yet another painting that Thoreau describes earlier in the book which is that of the ‘man who is illiterate and knows nothing else but the work in which is handed to him in society. Yet in this section Thoreau seems to be debating whether there is something to see in this individual.
September 19, 2018 at 1:36 pm
What could Thoreau be getting at here? There are ways in which saying things through words do not have the same impact if it was said through silence? There is no greater connection then that of a connection?
September 19, 2018 at 11:12 am
Looking again at his positive experiences of solitude, Thoreau explains that he finds company when he is alone. He extends this into a abstraction of how being alone should not have such negative connotation, and perhaps we should look to being in others’ company as the negative potential. His potent example is of God and the devil: “God is alone,–but the devil, he is far from being alone; he sees a great deal of company; he is legion.” This particular line really struck me. It seems that, both in the present and in Thoreau’s time, most people just really dreaded the thought of being alone. Most people can’t stand being with only themselves, or so they perceive. In fact, that’s how humans tend to get stuck in bad company, bad relationships, and so on: they think it is better than being alone. The all-too-common notion of the negativity of solitude was what made it necessary for Thoreau to elaborate the way he did. Just as the theme of Paragraph 12, this relates back to Thoreau’s recurring explanation of “Why I’m here.”
September 19, 2018 at 11:03 am
In this paragraph Thoreau reflects on his positive experiences of being alone, expressing the fact that he likes it better than socializing in general. He moves from this into his theory of solitude not being measured by physical space but by one’s perception, using the example of the farmer and the student to frame his point. As most people may identify with the farmer who “cannot sit down in a room alone,” it becomes necessary to generalize it and explain in this way in order to help people understand the potential beauty in solitude that most people shy away from. The point made in this paragraph can generalize, too, to the recurring theme in Walden of helping others understand why Thoreau went into the woods in the first place.
I find the relation to working in the field to be an interesting analogy for the difference found between solitude and loneliness. “…he does not realize that the student… is still at work in his field… and in turn seeks the same recreation and society that the latter does….” That is, it is the recreation and society which keeps them from feeling alone; so long as they are occupied with these, their solitude won’t become negative. It’s intriguingly worded, and I do agree to a certain extent, but I’d rather opt to use a different term for it: perhaps, “purpose”?
September 18, 2018 at 2:26 pm
[Let every one mind his own business, and endeavor to be what he was made.]
I have mixed emotions about this sentence. Partly because of how I have been raised. I understand that you need to take care and worry about you. Make yourself a priority. But I do struggle with minding my own business because I want to help others. I don’t want to just say tough luck or ignore their issues. I want to solve issues. I think this is partly because I am a people pleaser. I care an awful lot about how others are feeling, and this can be really annoying and difficult to do. As Thoreau states that we should mind our own business and worry about ourselves, in a sense I agree. We should put taking care of ourselves and that often can be overlooked. However, at the same time I disagree with this statement. If everyone only worries about themselves then no one helps others and no one reaches their full potential. The world is crazy and you can’t do everything on your own. So I don’t know how I feel about this sentence.
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