Transformation and inertia are presented as conflicting forces, balanced against one another in a kind of universal tension. The individual changes biologically as well as intellectually and spiritually, but his physical progression from youth to old age follows a path more or less set by nature. Nature itself changes cyclically, but the cycle of the seasonsthe cycle of lifeis repeated over and over. The classics of literature possess permanence in their expression of universal meaning, their relevance to men in all times. They simultaneously have the life-altering power to change a man.
Higher laws and divinity are absolute, but they are transformative for the man sensitive to the meanings of nature. Society, institutions, and the traditions of the pastexpressions of the status quoconstitute the major hindrances to change throughout Walden. Technological development is a kind of change, but it prevents the individual’s growth by creating a mind-numbing amount of labor and by imposing materialistic values. Thoreau therefore denies that it is true progress.
As a manifestation of vigorous nature and of God’s work, Walden is eternal. It transcends time and change. Thoreau writes in “The Ponds”:. . . of all the characters I have known, perhaps Walden wears best, and best preserves its purity.
. . . Though the woodchoppers have laid bare first this shore and then that, and the Irish have built their sties by it, and the railroad has infringed on its border, and the ice-men have skimmed it once, it is itself unchanged, the same water which my youthful eyes fell on; all the change is in me. . .
. It is perennially young. . .
. Why, here is Walden, the same woodland lake that I discovered so many years ago; where a forest was cut down last winter another is springing up by its shore as lustily as ever; the same thought is welling up to its surface that was then; it is the same liquid joy and happiness to itself and its Maker, ay, and it may be to me. It is the work of a brave man surely. .