Monday, February 22, 2010

Revisiting Thoreau

I’m reading Walden again. I’ve read it before but that was decades ago as part of the required reading in college. The reading was sandwiched into a lot of other required reading during that semester. I didn’t, needless to say, get much out of it at the time other than the idea that one day I’d revisit Thoreau.

More than three decades have passed since I was first introduced to Thoreau and this time I’m taking Walden in more of a leisurely fashion. Studying on it. Reflecting on it. Taking it in little doses. Letting it simmer and distill.

I no longer have to cram until my brain hurts solely for the sake of making passing grades. That’s a course in living that I have no desire to repeat.

I find it a little funny, in a strange sort of way, how a book like Walden was made part of a life-directing program that was so at odds with the realities communicated by Thoreau. The lives of the program proliferators and professors in no way resembled the life represented in the book.

Revisiting Walden, at this particular intersection in life, may be more providential than accidental. Thoreau reminds me a lot of my own self. Here’s someone looking at the world and saying “this is really messed up”, someone grappling with the terms of the world’s gluttonous frenzy and wanting no part of the terms, someone totally discontent with having his life micro-managed by all the systems and institutions insisting on their rights to set and govern all the details and intricacies of life.

In this present age, like in that earlier age, there is no shortage of people content to simply accept the status quo of the terms and become slaves of systems that are never satisfied with the daily output of bricks. Personally, if mixing straw in mud is all there is to life, living life has then become a caricature of something that it wasn’t meant to be. It has lost and completely forgotten its center.