Thoreau's Search for Inspiration in Where I Lived and What I Lived

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Thoreau was one of the most powerful and influential writers America has acquired. With his work “Civil Disobedience” and Walden, Thoreau conveyed his views on society through opinions and self-experiences. After living at Walden pond for just over two years to solely work on his writing, Thoreau connects with nature and expresses his opinion on the issues with society’s everyday behaviors. Thoreau is a man who truly believed in simplicity, and promotes it through his work by trying to persuade people to also live a simpler life and experience his way of living. The majority of people who read Thoreau’s work find the text troublesome to grasp due to the difficult language and condescending tone, however, once one can understand the many concepts Thoreau explains then one can understand the significance of his work and why it is still taught today. Rebecca Solnit; a successful contemporary advocate for Thoreau, does a keen job in further explaining Thoreau’s pieces of writing in a way that is more evident to his readers through her works, “Mysteries of Thoreau, Unsolved” and “The Thoreau Problem”. She invites readers to see the importance of simplicity in Thoreau’s writing. In a world vastly advancing with technology and new ideas to modernize concepts, the importance of simplicity in Thoreau’s work has never been more desired. In modern times our lives have increasingly become vastly complex to a point that Thoreau would not perceive. I ordinarily run around frenzied without a thought for mindfulness or proper pacing and then wonder why I get so tired and need to seek rest. As a college student, I often find myself overloading with stress from enormous amounts of work without thinking of the negative effect it may have on me. All these tasks myself and others do in such a hectic manner is the exact concept that Thoreau disapproves. Thoreau states “Men have become the tools of their tools. The man who independently plucked the fruits when he was hungry is become a farmer; and he who stood under a tree for shelter, a housekeeper.

We now no longer camp as for a night, but have settled down on earth and forgotten heaven… The best works of art are the expression of man’s struggle to free himself from this condition, but the effect of our art is merely to make this low state comfortable and that higher state to be forgotten” (80). Through this quote, Thoreau asserts how negatively he feels towards society becoming immensely hectic with stress through technology. He describes how we as a society have become so reliant on the tools that were created to help us that we are now incapable to function without them. Thus, we are now the property of the items that we have created to help us. I constantly find myself looking at my phone or checking social media. Therefore I find myself feeling as if I am a tool to my own technology. Thoreau encourages living simply and in contact with nature just as he experienced. He presumed it helped him to have a higher understanding of himself. Solnit explains, “Thoreau was never far from town, and he was not retreating from anything” (qtd. In Solnit “Mysteries”9) Today it would be very challenging to recreate an experience like this due to new technology and the command of rapid response in work and school. If Thoreau was here today I assume he would agree and find all the new technology very troublesome in many ways. I believe Thoreau’s thoughts on the advancing of tools is quite accurate in today’s time as well. As technology continues to advance, it could have a negative impact in society.

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Hence, why his work today is still valid. While Thoreau lived at Walden for those two years not only was he there to work on his writing and self-discover but slavery also weighed on his mind a great deal during that time. Solnit depicts his opinions on slavery and discusses what he believes and the impact he made about the troubling issue. Thoreau was anti-slavery and wrote about it in his work. Thoreau found slavery inherently immoral, less from the perspective of general cruelty than for its idea that any man could be owned by another. Solnit states, “His mother and sisters’ organization, the Concord Female Anti· Slavery Society, met at least once in his cabin….This is how not a recluse he was: there were meetings in that tiny cabin that engaged with the laws of the nation and the status of strangers far away, and he also went to jail during that time, because he was fiercely opposed to the territorial war against Mexico and to slavery.” (qtd in Solnit “Mysteries”10) Not only does this show how he was against slavery but also shows how passionate he was for what he believed in. He knew that slavery was wrong and went to jail for standing up for what he believed in. His passion was illustrated by getting sent to jail for standing up for what he believes in. Solnit claims, “Thus it is that the road to paradise often runs through prison, thus it is that Thoreau went to jail to enjoy a better country, and thus it is that one of his greatest students, Martin Luther King Jr., found himself in jail and eventually in the way of a bullet on what got called the long road to freedom, whose goals he spoke of as the mountaintop.” (qtd in Solnit “Problem”6) This exhibits Thoreau’s motivation and drive to take action on what he thinks is right. If Thoreau was here today to see protesters take a stand, I think he would be proud of their passion.

Thoreau is a great advocate for people today in search of inspiration to stand up for their opinions on society and many other current issues. All things considered Thoreau’s philosophies of life presented in Walden combined with Solnit’s examination and breakdown of Thoreau’s work in her pieces “Mysteries of Thoreau, Unsolved” and “The Thoreau Problem” gives readers a clearer and finer understanding of what Thoreau represents. Throughout this paper it becomes evident why Thoreau’s writing is important in today’s society due to his views on simplicity and passion for what he believes in. Although Thoreau’s work is quite dated time wise, it is still powerful to the ears of today’s people and Thoreau would be considered a favorable role model in present time. Just from the small portion of Thoreau’s work that I have read, it has opened up my eyes to the world around me and reduced my technology usage. Just as Thoreau recommends people to try the life style he lived, I too endorse the simplicity route he chose to follow.

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