We have an ongoing discussion on this chapter in Iran based on my Persian translation. It is hard for us to imagine that Thoreau is merely referring to early adulthood by the phrase “at a certain season of our life” in the beginning of this chapter. It also seems hard to imagine he is looking for a permanent residence. Thoreau may not be looking for a physical residence in the material world at all. The reason I think so is that later in the chapter, he says, “We are wont to imagine rare and delectable places in some remote and more celestial corner of the system, behind the constellation of Cassiopeia’s Chair, far from noise and disturbance?” A permanent house was never on T’s mind. He says, “Wherever I sat, there I might live, and the landscape radiated from me accordingly. What is a house but a sedes, a seat?” Even in the beginning of Walden he considers himself “a sojourner of civilized life.” Rumi says, “The whole seven universes are too small for me.” It is most pleasant mysteries of Walden for us in Iran. What certain season and what spot is really Thoreau speaking about here?
In his new book, Cryptic Subtexts in Literature and Film: Secret Messages and Buried Treasure (New York: Routledge, 2019), Steven F. Walker offers a new interpretation of Walden’s 1854 subtitle, “Life in the Woods.” It is well known that that subtitle was hardly original, having appeared in several publications prior to the publication of Walden, including an article of that name by Charles Lane which appears in the final issue of The Dial. Walker grants that Thoreau may have used the title “ironically,” that is, “as a vigorous rejoinder to the thesis of Lane’s Dial essay” (13). More intriguing, however, is Walker’s argument that Thoreau may have associated “life in the woods” with a phase of life known in Hindu as “vanaprastha” (literally translated as “life in the woods”)—“the third stage of life—that of the solitary, contemplative hermit living in the forest on the outskirts of the village—as described in The Laws of Manu” (14) which Thoreau read in Emerson’s library in 1840. “Such a new framing,” Walker says, “certainly provides a new perspective on Thoreau’s life-in-the-woods enterprise, which, for all its Yankee originality, also can be seen as a spiritual retreat based on an ancient Hindu paradigm of the stages of life” (16).
February 20, 2021 at 1:15 pm
Posted in: SNHUmans
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February 20, 2021 at 1:13 pm
Well said, Ainsley. Given that he had TB and financial constraints, he lived that advice.
February 18, 2021 at 8:52 pm
This paragraph also discusses, as I mentioned in one of my earlier comments, Thoreau’s philosophy and how it intertwines with nature. He states that no matter what your life is like, you do not give up and reject it and complain about it. Thoreau believes the way to live your best life with what you are given is to face your problems head on instead of ignoring them because they will only continue to develop and get worse. Thoreau states things don’t change; we do. While you may be stuck with things and situations, you yourself are not stuck if you change your thinking.
February 18, 2021 at 8:47 pm
This paragraph was super important in the sense that Thoreau’s safe place, his favorite location with his favorite sounds and scents of the trees and waters and animals, became a feeling of normalcy. When Thoreau first moved into the woods, he was in awe of everything around him, and took in everything he possibly could. However, after having the same surroundings and doing the same things day after day, Thoreau was no longer satisfied in this lifestyle he had created. He states that he thought he had more lives to live, and I think that by this he means he has very different experiences ahead of him. While the woods offered and taught Thoreau so much, he can only experience so much inside of the woods, and he realized that he had gained everything he could from this experience and it was time to move on.
February 18, 2021 at 8:26 pm
I really enjoyed this paragraph. Thoreau discusses how thinking better thoughts can lead to living a better life. Looking at things with optimism can often make bad things less bad, which Thoreau touches upon. A lot of Thoreau’s writings are entirely based around not only nature but also the way he thinks and his own personal philosophy. Thoreau believes we are blessed to be alive no matter the circumstances and it is up to us to make the best out of what we are given in life, as he displays with his very simplistic and seemingly lonesome lifestyle.
February 18, 2021 at 8:08 pm
This paragraph speaks a lot about Thoreau’s intense attention to detail. Not only does he detail the thickness and thinness of the ice, but he also discusses the relation between the thickness of the ice and the way it melts. Thoreau also discusses in-depth the way that the temperature causes state changes in the ice and the way it impacts the water at different lengths. I doubt many people, and I know I haven’t, have ever put that much thought and consideration into ice and the way it melts. While it also speaks a lot to Thoreau’s surroundings, it speaks even more to his attention to detail, especially in nature. He notices everything he possibly can, and thinks about it and what it means as opposed to letting it be a passing thought, which is what most do.
February 18, 2021 at 4:36 pm
I love the line about being more alone when we are around people we have nothing in common with, compared to being by yourself.
February 18, 2021 at 4:29 pm
[ I one evening overtook one of my townsmen, who has accumulated what is called “a handsome property”,—though I never got a fair view of it,—on the Walden road, driving a pair of cattle to market, who inquired of me how I could bring my mind to give up so many of the comforts of life. I answered that I was very sure I liked it passably well; I was not joking. And so I went home to my bed, and left him to pick his way through the darkness and the mud to Brighton,—or Bright-town,—which place he would reach some time in the morning.]
Another example of Thoreau exemplifying his passion and reasoning for isolation.
February 17, 2021 at 10:57 am
This paragraph is showing how Thoreau felt about falling into a sense of normalcy and habit, he was not fond of it. He is also saying humanity will have a lasting impact on Earth regardless of how minimalistic or big people get, so long as there is a habit of doing things by everyone, there will be a notable footprint of those habits.
February 17, 2021 at 10:52 am
I really enjoy seeing the seasonal birds come back from the south or wherever they migrate to and I had the same appreciation when Thoreau showed the level of excitement towards the sparrow.
The way Thoreau talks about the grass and sort of compares it to his own life was particularly interesting. Grass, even though frozen and covered for most of Winter, still comes back to life and grows quickly and strongly as compared to people getting busier since the air is warmer.
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