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.
October 1, 2018 at 11:48 am
Posted in: ENGL 203 Geneseo F18
[ We are made to exaggerate the importance of what work we do; and yet how much is not done by us!]
See in context
September 27, 2018 at 5:17 pm
[The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the paths which the mind travels. ]
Here, Thoreau makes the shift from experience to theory. He moves from speaking about the simple path he wore through the trees from his cabin to the pond to how easily paths must be worn in other areas of life. If one man can walk a path enough that it endures for years after he’s gone in only a week, what can years of traditions do to a society? In this theorizing, he extrapolates his own experience and projects it onto the greater world around him.
September 27, 2018 at 11:44 am
[ Nay, be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.]
Thoreau seems to move up one level of abstraction here when he gets me, as a reader, to theorize about thought. I really liked this quote because it makes me think about how I think and what my thoughts can be used for. Thoreau wants us to see our thoughts as channels to new discoveries and worlds. This move seems necessary because without new thoughts and discoveries, there wouldn’t be innovation and progression in the world and we would be stuck in the cycle of complacency and ignorance of society that Thoreau seems to despise.
September 27, 2018 at 10:56 am
[There are none happy in the world but beings who enjoy freely a vast horizon]
Earlier in this paragraph Thoreau talks about the pasture being enough for his imagination. He enjoys his sense of freedom. It makes him happy he feels that none are happier than those who enjoy freely a vast horizon.
September 27, 2018 at 10:30 am
[It was suggestive somewhat as a picture in outlines. ]
This line in this paragraph also describes his complete and utter pleasure with his work. His previous home was like an artists work that seemed to be missing something. His new home however he felt was perfect and complete.
September 27, 2018 at 1:43 am
[ Why should I feel lonely? is not our planet in the Milky Way? This which you put seems to me not to be the most important question. What sort of space is that which separates a man from his fellows and makes him solitary? I have found that no exertion of the legs can bring two minds much nearer to one another. ]
Thoreau explores the idea of solitude through his own experiences and explains that in order to truly be happy, one has to be able to appreciate the simplicity of life. I find this section to be extremely powerful, and was struck by this idea that we, as humans, are always isolated in a sense, but not necessarily alone. By moving up a level of abstraction, Thoreau also allows the reader to dig into their own thoughts and ‘get meta’ themselves. This portion is ultimately grounding despite its universe-oriented themes, and helps to contrast with the previous weather/nature related analogies.
September 26, 2018 at 10:46 pm
[The greatest gains and values are farthest from being appreciated. We easily come to doubt if they exist. We soon forget them. They are the highest reality. Perhaps the facts most astounding and most real are never communicated by man to man. ]
We do not appreciate the simple, the “real” we are so easily tempted to ask for more. When there is but all that we can ask right in front of us.
September 26, 2018 at 9:53 pm
[This was an airy and unplastered cabin, fit to entertain a travelling god, and where a goddess might trail her garments. ]
Thoreau built his own cabin and felt that it was fit for a god and goddess. It was his own home. It was his creation and he seems that he was very proud of it. I love how he feels it is worthy of a god.
September 26, 2018 at 3:43 pm
This is the part of the passage which I believe is when it shifts to theory. Here we can see Thoreau making broad claims but still making sure to acknowledge exceptions by referring to “most men” instead of “all men.”
September 26, 2018 at 1:41 pm
[Yet we think that if rail-fences are pulled down, and stone-walls piled up on our farms, bounds are henceforth set to our lives and our fates decided. ]
This line really stuck out to me as a place where Thoreau pushes us, as readers, to move up one level of abstraction. This statement makes us question the boundaries we have set forth for ourselves. In this way, we can evaluate our own life’s cycles and assess if we are comfortable in our complacency or wish to challenge the boundaries we (and society) have set for ourselves. I agree with Katelyn Baroody when they say Thoreau is urging us to find our own Walden Pond and search for inner fulfillment there. We don’t necessarily need a change of landscape, like Thoreau got when he moved to Walden Pond, but a change of soul. I feel like this move of abstraction is necessary because how else are we supposed to find inner fulfillment and peace if we don’t challenge our own beliefs and ideas?
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