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Thread: Walden and Trancendentalism

  1. #1
    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Walden and Trancendentalism

    if you have read Walden what would you say is favourite chapter?
    I find the book very haunting and the idea of solitude is rather strange, especially if one is to remove themselves from society and decide to live in the woods as part of a rebel movement, a kind of a protest against culture and people.
    I can't help but think the word transced almost has a feel transcientism to it which can only mean deterioration.


    any comments are welcome
    Last edited by cacian; 05-03-2012 at 12:38 PM.
    it may never try
    but when it does it sigh
    it is just that
    good
    it fly

  2. #2
    Skol'er of Thinkery The Comedian's Avatar
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    Well, I love every chapter in Walden, but if I were to choose a favorite, it's "The Bean Field". It's go everything from Thoreau's under-appreciated humor to some of Walden's most sublime passages. But I like it the most because it is the best metaphor for Thoreau's "experiment": a for-profit garden in the woods. Even my language here is misnaming it -- it's not a "garden", which suggests a plot of land meant to grow food for a family to eat. Thoreau's precise language needs to be noted: it's a "field" which more accurately describes what he's doing -- farming.

    While it's true that solitude is an element of Walden I think that it's a vastly over-emphasized one. Thoreau makes no disguise about the fact that he's an active community member: heck, he even participates in the local economy in raising the beans -- he sells them for rice. He "wears a path to town"; he visits his neighbors; he lectures at the Lyceum; he uses the railroad tracks to get around; he builds his house from a left-over shack; he even spends a day in the pokey and harbors a run-away slave on his way to Canada.

    His links to Emersonian transcendentalism are clear but Thoreau is equally, if not more influenced by Classical Asian and Greek writers. And I think he, more than any other American writer that I know of, tried to live a literary/philosophical life -- at least at Walden. And you have to be aware or Thoreau's irony -- he seeks transcendence by being "rooted"; spirituality by physical labor; riches through poverty. . .Hell, Thoreau in Walden is like a collision between the enlightenment, with its focus on science and Asian spirituality: he wants to test the conditions and viability of leading a morally good life.
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    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    The Comedian thank you for such an interesting post.
    I am solely having troubles linking asian spirituality with transcendentalism.
    One does not require the removal of a self from its surrounding to reach spiritualism and the second is reliant on removing oneself completely from human contact.
    it may never try
    but when it does it sigh
    it is just that
    good
    it fly

  4. #4
    Skol'er of Thinkery The Comedian's Avatar
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    I'm not sure either one requires "removing oneself completely from human contact" -- I know that Thoreau's transcendentalism doesn't. I'm less well-read in Asian philosophy and religions, but from what I've read of them, I they don't seem to suggest a complete remove from human contact either.

    They each suggest that we all need far less human contact than we are accustomed to. . .. or rather to be more free from the corrupting influences of materialism so often embedded in urban life. And they each suggest a physical remove is really just a way to facilitate a spiritual/emotional remove from those vices that seem so necessary in an appetitive and competitive environment. But in each, an element of human contact is vital.

    In Emersonian Transcendentalism, one does not need physical isolation at all. In fact, in his "Nature" the transcendental moment, when the speaker becomes an "all seeing eye" occurs on "the common" or city park. For Emerson, this uplift can occur anywhere and is much more a product of the mind than of the physical body. Thoreau, in Walden, takes this mental idea and give it some "legs" . . . :-)
    “Oh crap”
    -- Hellboy

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