Henry David Thoreau – An Enigma

If a person were to retreat to a cabin in the woods for two years, what would they write about? How hard it was physically, with no heat, air-conditioning, electricity, or running water? The privations they endured with little to eat or drink? How Nature intruded incessantly from all sides? “The damn mice are eating everything and I’m freezing my ass off.”

I suspect most of us would view it as a negative experience and we were the worse off for having done it. Needless to say, no one would want to hear about it.

As for those of us who are willing to rough it, how would our journal read? A dull trudge of repetitive entries of our boring time in the woods? “I saw some birds today, but I don’t know what kind they were and I sure as hell wouldn’t know their Latin names.” Perhaps one or two of us could come up with something passing as readable, such as an outdoor writer might deliver.

But only Thoreau could do the unthinkable and relate the finest and highest of human thought to everyday natural phenomena, as if it were fairly obvious the two should go together. After pondering his thoughts and musings you start to see the world his way and it begins to look different. This is why we read books.

Thoreau questions some of the accepted habits and aims of modern man. He makes a compelling argument that some of these behaviors are illogical and go against the grain of Nature. If he thought people were living too-far-removed from Nature back then, I wonder what he would think now.