Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Emerson and Thoreau


Reading Emerson, and even more so Thoreau, changed my life. These two authors, which I have never come into contact with other than hearing their names, have had an immense and incalculable effect on me. I feel as if I have found my voice in them. Not since reading Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun, have I been more affected by a piece of literature. Thoreau’s Resistance to Civil Government moved me and validated many thoughts I’ve had my entire life; especially of late. As Thoreau said, “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity” (p.1692). I have always put too much stock into television, and work, and being busy, and not enough into sitting quietly. I am a definite product of my generation and society. Always, something has been amiss. Now I have found what it is. After reading parts of Walden, I want to sell our home and take my family on the road, only to settle later at some remote place. While this seems like a dream, and impossibility, Walden has awoken in me the possibility; but in more actuality, the ways to make the philosophy of such a life applicable to my current situation.

Emerson’s Self-Reliance has validated my entire outlook on life. I am often chided and teased by family members and friends, all in friendly terms and out of love of course, about my personality. I am very passionate, and talk a lot about the thing I am currently interested; books, certain philosophy, politics, hobbies, etc. However, these come in the waves of phases that can last weeks, months, or years. Sometimes new passions will contradict prior ones. A few years of devout Christianity (church three times a week and teaching Bible studies) followed by atheism, for example. While I take myself in stride, and often don’t care what others think, sometimes I wish I was not this way. I seem to contradict myself often. However, when I read Emerson say, “Suppose you should contradict yourself; what then” (p.1560), and the following passages, I was inspired and validated. So what if I change my mind? As he says, why should I “drag about this corpse of…memory” (p.1560). I am a changing person, and I show my change, while many others do not show it, let alone change at all for fear of leaving others with “no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts.” Most people are “loath to disappoint them (other people)” (p.1560).

I honestly felt this paper would be late because I found myself unable to just skim Self-Reliance, without having to read it in its entirety. I am disappointed that I have to move on from these authors, because with my schedule, what little time I have for reading must be spent reading for assignments. I feel as if a new world was opened to me, only to be shut back up and put off to the side for the next year and a half until I finish my degree.

All page references are to The Heath Anthology of American Literature, 4th ed., Paul Lautier Editor

1 comment:

Adairsville said...

I'm interested in anything to do with the Civil War and with Cassville, Georgia. Your blog is interesting.

Regards,

A Cassville Heritage Association member, Cassville, Georgia
Adairsville