Where I Lived and What I Lived for by Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau, the naturalist, poet, philosopher, and essayist, is an invaluable asset to the American literary world. He is a transcendentalist as well, but he pursues a completely different path than Emerson. For him, it is a way of life that can shape an individual’s fate. It turns out to be a self-culture doctrine. Thoreau was influenced considerably by famous writers such as Shakespeare, Jefferson, Tom Paine, and Emerson. The influence of Indian scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita, Manu Smruthi, Rig Veda, and the Upanishads can be felt in his writings. The Maine Woods, Cape Cod, The Journal, and Walden are among Thoreau’s most well-known writings.
The recommended text is the second chapter of his Walden, Where I lived and what I lived for. His own experiences at Walden Pond, where he stayed between July 4th, 1845 and September 6th, 1847 — two years, two months, and two days – shaped Walden. It can be described as a spiritual biography as well as an attempt at self-reformation. It is Thoreau’s quest for spiritual living scales.
Thoreau describes going to live alone in the woods in a hut he built by the side of Walden Pond. He wished to experiment with living close to nature, away from society, where “the mass men lead lives of quiet desperation.” He desired to live simply, without “modern conveniences.” For he desired to be free, to study nature and his own spirit in peace, to contemplate, read, and write.
He had taken a survey of the area while living there, and he felt that the entire terrain belonged to him. As a result, he claims, “In my imagination, I bought all the farms in succession, for all were to be bought, and I knew their price.” “I walked over each farmer’s grounds, tasted his wild apples, and conversed on husbandry,” he continues. On the Fourth of July 1845, he moved into his cabin on Walden Pond, albeit it was not yet finished. It was situated between Concord village and Lincoln town, in a densely forested area. The nearby pond was stunning.
As a result of his ongoing investigations in that area, he became familiar with the environment and the farmers who lived surrounding Walden Pond. His love of communication made him look forward to these neighbourhood visits. He frequently imagined himself as the owner of several estates and buildings. Every aspect or aspect of his stay there cherishes the natural grandeur, particularly the delightful morning. In practically every paragraph in Where I lived and what I lived for, a description of dawn or morning can please the reader. Every dawn was an invitation to him to live a simple and innocent life in the midst of nature.
While he says this, he is certain. “The awakening hour is the morning, which is the most memorable season of the day.” Then there is the least somnolence in us, and for at least an hour, some part of us awakens that sleeps the rest of the day and night.” Thoreau observed that the vast majority of people are only awake for physical labour. Only around one in a million people is awake enough to do effective intellectual activity. “All intelligences awaken with the morning,” the Vedas say. “Poetry and art, and the fairest and most memorable of men’s actions date from such an hour,” Thoreau remarks. All poets and heroes, like Memnon, are Aurora’s children, and their music is released at sunrise.”
He desired to live life to the greatest, deepest extent imaginable. Life is a beautiful gift to him. Most people, in their misguided meanness and obsession with trivialities, neglect to live their lives to the marrow. During this discussion, Thoreau explains why he went into the woods and lived as a recluse. “I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, to face only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived,” he says. I did not want to live what was not life, because living is so precious, and I did not want to exercise surrender unless absolutely necessary.”
Thoreau is a firm believer in simplicity. He believes that our cares and affairs should be kept to a minimum. A higher fraction of anything could be reduced to its bare minimum. He emphasises this style of living by stating, “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!” I say confine your affairs to two or three, not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million, maintain a half-dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumbnail…. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilised life, such are the clouds and storms and quick sands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man must live by dead reckoning if he is not to founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all; and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. “Simplify, simplify, simplify.”
Thoreau is a firm believer that a frantic lifestyle cannot be enjoyed fruitfully. If we wish to live a simple life, we should not take our technological and industrial advancements and the services they provide too seriously. He is not in a hurry to burry. It is as though he is saying to us all, “Why should we keep running?” Let us wait…relax…and watch what happens. Thoreau had observed humans travelling up and down the hill at a rate faster than the engines and equipment. He knows that people move about, but they are missing out on a plethora of amusing and irreversible life situations.
As a result, he appeals to us all, saying, “Let us spend one day as methodically as Nature,….
Let us rise early and fast, or break fast quietly and without disturbance; let company come and go,…Why should we knock beneath go with the flow? Some critics may have labelled him a social dissident because of his ideas. That, however, is not the case. It is, in fact, a friendly reminder and a loving warning to the busy bees of mechanical life who have forgotten the reality – the significance of relieving one’s tension. Thoreau, it should be noted, never advocated willful lethargy. Thoreau closes his essay by claiming that people’s perception of time is restricted or shallow. It is, in fact, an eternal entity.