Thoreau’s Art of Living In Thoreau’s Walden, he explores the art of living by presenting a dichotomy of sojourning in nature. The life of participating with nature considers living simply and wisely while cooperating with both its lowest and highest elements. Thoreau calls for a change in life by changing the conventional ideas of standard societal views and its participation with the torpor of the material mass. Throughout Walden, Thoreau delves into his surroundings, the very specifics of nature while trying to live the ideal life.
Perhaps the main theme and overbearing concept that Thoreau wishes to convey to the reader both in the conclusion and throughout Walden, is that we must recognize the great power and potential for new discovery and enjoyment in our minds. Thus, Thoreau calls for an “ideological revolution to simplification” in our lives and conveys a paradoxical view that the highest point of living is the leading of a simple life of a balance between change and solitude. This life is the art of activity within the art of structural living- a non-instrumental way of enhancing one’s life through spiritual development and the cultivation of the mind and body.
The purpose for this enhancement is fostering the spirit in its progress and not marred by material products or social structures. The spirit involves activity with nature and must not be hindered by material necessities Kim 2 demanded by society. Such progress is change within oneself, within one’s mind and soul and ultimately achieved through self-recognition.
It is the recognizing of the self that leads to individualized experiences. This art requires pure devotion of the individual and the divorce from the boundaries of business and time. In doing so, the individual experiences a transcended self, a “elevated piety” and “perennial youth ” 211. Thoreau compares the art of and active life to one of unending youthfulness. He pervades the importance of the youth as innocent and pure. Such life must not be tainted by obscurities and the mundane routine of the city life but rather emerged, submerged in the purest form of existence-nature. Thoreau equates the outdoors natural stimuli with innocence when he states that “every child begins the world again, to some extent, and loves to stay outdoors” 17. Thoreau mirrors youthfulness to nature in order to convey a need of constant rebirth into purity and innocence that leads to a love of the earth. Thoreau provides an example of a life embracing youthfulness and the active search for change and perfection.
The story of the man from Kouroo is a compelling anecdote for how humans can transcend time and reduce it to the simple illusion that it is. This passage and the story of the man as a whole can be taken as a metaphor that Thoreau is showing us, one which we can apply to our own lives. The art does not”compromise with time” or with other’s opinions 211.
The artist of Kouroo continuously searches for the perfect stick to make a staff until he finds that stick. He ignores even his friends’ dissuasions and desertions and perseveres his pursuit to Kim 3 obtain that which will bring purity. Thoreau states, “Let us settle ourselves and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance” 63. The metaphor that Thoreau gives of the swamp with the hard bottom serves to show how people can drown and sink in the bog of society.
However, to “settle” is to unsettle oneself from the conventions and ground feet downward in order to transcend. Although he searches for a simple element â€“ a stick- the process, the art of living is continual, complex and endearing.
It is his “singleness of purpose” and love for the activity that brings him a pure art and youthfulness. The active life Associated with the art of living reveals living one’s life engaging and searching nature without worrying of limitations. The search of perfection results in a perfect art so unimpeded by external events. The artist uses pure materials of nature that are not tainted by the materialistic focus of the world. By employing these pure elements, the true artist of life brings a new system to take the place of old aged societies and brings forth a “world with full and fair proportions” 211. This new world constructed by innocence and purified nature does not age or dies but rather transcends beyond the torpor and mundane life. Thoreau continues to argue that living requires loving and meeting life. He calls the reader to change and cultivate one’s life by turning the old, as one would do with soil. The constant turning brings forth change of one’s life and mind towards activity.
Thoreau rejects mechanical aids that cloud the consciousness and blinds one of achieving the purified art of living. He attacks the external stimuli such as drugs Kim 4 and habits as well as the “gross necessaries of life” that only temporarily satisfies the body and impurifies rather than purifies 7. Even in one’s poverty, Thoreau suggests that “you are but confined to the most significant and vital experience” â€“ a life compelled to deal with nature and its elements. It is the love to “weigh, to settle, to gravitate” 211 life that produces a life not the search for “luxury which enervates and destroys nations” 9. Thoreau prefers a simplistic life resembling poverty and detachment from the dependency of luxury and the massive aspirations for particular things. The severance from worldly commodities will bring forth a”life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust”
9. The simple and wise life that Thoreau calls upon is complex yet he is convinced by “faith and experience that to maintain one’s self on this earth is not hardship but a pastime” 46. The simple and wise life requires one to be alert, awake, and to be “reawakened and continuously awake” 59. This reveals Thoreau’s love of American visionary moral aesthetics and the encouraging fact of the need for man to “elevate h8is life by a conscious endeavor” 59. It is the independent fervor and active participation of one’s soul to “affect the quality of the day” which results in the “highest of the arts”59. The pursuit for intensity within simplistic ways of life apart from material stimulants brings forth a natural elevation through a conscious rational effort.
The self is the natural medium requiring the meticulous efforts to increase and transcend one’s spirit to a pure art form similar to nature. Kim 5 Thoreau also argues the possibilities of such a life by which we can engage and”morally we can do” 59. Thoreau adheres to the tradition of a thrift way of life according to the Puritan work ethic. He embraces certain elements of the religiosity in doing- the fervency of participating in one’s task. Thoreau participates in the day and of the day’s natural repetitiveness, different from the mundane life. It is by our own spirits that we are deified when we become purified and wedded to the day. Thoreau compares himself to the day when he states that “morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me” 58.
By describing the nature around him, Thoreau grips the life by living the deliberate and “fronting only the essential facts” 59. Such facts arise from nature and living is the experience one has while dealing with the earth and the atmosphere. The facts are natural truths waiting to be practiced and searched for. Thus each man is given a task to experience the quality rather than quantity of the day. “Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour”59. Thoreau conveys living as a simple task, although the process and experience of living is undermined. To live is to “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life” which is hardly a simple task 59. The essential elements embedded in life need to be searched and sucked out. Thoreau calls for living deep, and taking all that life has to bring even sucking all the “marrow of life” that brings youthfulness.
Kim 6 This action must be done individually and by one’s own efforts and exertions in order to experience the art of living. Thoreau’s emphasis on solitude and independence conveys the notion that one should become detached from the worldly unfruitful life for one to become lost to oneself in order to find his soul. The importance placed on the individual’s act of living reveals the dependency that one has to nature.
Thoreau suggests a life matching and synergetic with nature while learning to absolve and bless oneself with nature. By losing oneself to nature and shedding detail, one’s lenses of perception of life becomes purified and faced with truth. He also hints at an issue much deeper than just whether what one says is true or not. Thoreau deals with not only truth or falsity, but with the dichotomy between real value and superficial pedantry. The art of living is working the land with one’s hands, to “labor enough to subdue and cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh” 2. The imagery of land is paralleled to flesh, thus producing an image of harmony and a natural state. Thoreau mirrors the natural human to nature herself. By aligning oneself to nature, one can elevate his soul by “coming face to face with fact” 64 and overcoming the end to a mortal career with evident truth. When Thoreau states that “the surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the paths which the mind travels,” he reveals a simile between the soft and “impressible” surface of the earth and the same ability which the mind has to be soft and receptacle to any new idea. Any new information that it learns is perfect.
Although Thoreau does not directly describe the surface of the earth being Kim 7 in any particular woods, in the line after the semicolon he refers to the”paths which the mind travels.” He refers this statement to the brain and in the larger sense the soul with the earlier image of the “soft and impressible surface.” Likewise, in order for one to practice the art of living one must have dreams and ultimate goals that are high and lofty as he endeavors to such great heights. Thoreau continues to bombard the reader with an onslaught of statements that encourage us to continue our study of the self as if every day is new day. The art of living comes only to those who are alive and cognizant enough to receive what change, purity and truth nature offers.
The truth stands prevalent and shining as it purges one’s soul to become pure and cleansed like nature. Thus Thoreau seduces the reader into the possibility of change within oneself and a catharsis from one’s dependency on the unnecessary aspects of life and the limits. The art of living involves living an active, simple and natural truth, with nature, while absorbing the pragmatic elements of vital pureness by continuously adhering to one’s simple, wise, and invigorating rituals of transcendence.