Henry David Thoreau lived in Walden Pond in Concord Massachusetts. This place is a remote inexpensive farm for which according to him “where I lived was far from the race of men as many a region viewed nightly by astronomers…my house actually had its site in such a withdrawn, (far from noise and disturbance) but forever new and unprofaned part of the universe” ( Thoreau 2004).
He like the place because of “its complete retirement, being about two miles from the village, half a mile from the nearest neighbor, and separated from the highway. ” He had chosen many possible sites in which to build his house, going to the extent of surveying farms from “the country on every side within a dozen miles of where I live” and bought them in succession in his imagination ( Thoreau 2004). In the end, he settles for a house in the woods in the Walden Pond.
Thoreau had likened a house a into seat and he thought it would be better if it would be a country seat although he had clearly stated that “wherever I sat there I might live and the landscape radiated from me accordingly”, suggesting in his openness to live anywhere and communing with nature wherever that place may be for he carried nature with himself or he had the ability to radiate nature from within him (Thoreau 2004). Thoreau said he came to Walden Pond to “lived deliberately, to front 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.
I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary” (Thoreau 2004). Furthermore, he said that “I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to cut a broad swath, to drive life into a corner and reduce it to its lowest terms” (Thoreau 2004). From these statements Thoreau believed that Nature possess the key to true deep living and his stay in the Walden Pond carries the intention in finding out what those “marrow” facts of life are.
In fact, he was fully convinced that he will be able to find his answers there for he further stated, “I would mine and burrow my way through these hills. I think that the richest vein is somewhere hereabouts” (Thoreau 2004). Thoreau however, does not entertain the idea that he wants to find or know himself in Nature, or that he had to be with nature in order to feel a sense of well-being. What he had in mind, based on above statements was to find what was essentials in life in order to live.
He does not suggest to his readers that to make an abode in the woods was the ideal thing to do although he points out that civilization do have the capacity to act as an encumbrance that traps men through its external and superficial clutters. Thoreau firmly believed that it is in “rigid economy “and simple living and elevation of purpose that man is set free from its entrapments. Living in the woods close nature had made Thoreau live a simple and innocent life, basking on the renewal of his spiritual energies as he commune with the birds and animals of the forest and fertility of the world.
He felt more awake than ever and he said that to be awake is to be alive. He pointed out that “ millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life. ”When a young man informed him that he wants to live the way Thoreau did, Thoreau rejected such an idea for he believed that each man should have his own way on how he should manage himself in the world. After two years, Thoreau went back to living back in the civilized society.
According to him, “I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live and could not spare any more time for that one”( Thoreau 2004). This just suggest that although he recognized living close to nature provides valuable contribution to man’s well-being , he does not feel that it is the only way to really live or that it requires living close to nature in order to really live. What he advocates is that man should live his life however mean it may be. William Cronon, on the other hand, lamented the modern concept of wilderness (nature).
He said that modern man now regarded the wilderness as a pleasurable heavenly and sacred place, having the character of the sublime and individual freedom as opposed to the ancient belief of the wilderness as a “desolate”, “deserted” and “barren” place (Cronon 2007). Cronon pointed out two causes for such a transformation of views: Romanticism and the American concept of the frontiers. Romanticism had placed romantic value on the wilderness, celebrating its beauty and evoking emotions of joy and delight at the wonder of nature.
The frontier on the other hand placed moral values on the wilderness, remembering its vanishing frontier lifestyle with nostalgic notions of the loss of “fine, manly qualities”, of the display of qualities of bravery, hospitality and adventurousness and where man meets death “with quiet, uncomplaining fortitude”( Cronon 2007). Cronon does not oppose such modern regard for the wilderness or nature but rather on the complications or drawbacks that it presented on modern minds.
It will misled man to believe that only in the presence of what is sublime and primitive simplicity in nature can man “ see the world as it really is, and so know ourselves as we really are—or ought to be”( Cronon 2007). This belief would be beneficial only for people who can afford to leave their jobs for a while and seek renewal in nature but it would place at a disadvantage those who cannot afford to do so and despair them into believing that they cannot know themselves while they are away from Nature.
Furthermore, for Cronon such notions had made a greater separation of what is natural and unnatural, bringing the illusion that man can escape their past or responsibilities in Nature and prevent them from confronting their situations head-on as they nurture the idea that they can make a living in a civilized society yet at the same time believing that their real home is in the wilderness. The major drawback would then that modern man would not be able to appreciate his home in the civilized world and therefore fail to make the necessary steps to make the positive values in the wilderness applicable to his home life in the city.
That is, he would fail to apply humility and respect to the presence of limited nature in his civilized world, judging it as incomplete . As a result, he would fail to exercise self-awareness and self-criticism in a society where he exerts the most influence and bring about the greatest consequences (Cronon 2007). Thoreau to some degree demonstrated the limiting view of previous generations on their perceptions on the use and importance of the wilderness or nature which had caused some fear and concern for Cronon.
Thoreau had treated nature as a source of spiritual renewal and the instrument for making him wide awake. Cronon though recognized that such values may be imparted by nature he oppose the idea that it is only in the communion of nature that man achieve this. Otherwise, he may feel incomplete if he thinks that he is away from Nature. Thoreau also presented to some degree an opposition to civilization, regarding its internal improvements as superficial and external and advocates simplicity as the cure of luxurious entrapments.
This of course provides a negative impression of the products of modernization. Cronon laments such opposition for it led men to despise the products of modernity instead of helping them to develop minds that is able to distinguish what is useful in nature and what is not. Cronon therefore proposes men to be able to make self-criticisms by themselves and not to outrightly follow the battle cry of the environmentalist in the civilized world that they lived.
It is important for Cronon that man is able to apply the positive values that is benefited by the wilderness into their homes in the city for they cannot escape the reality that they have to use nature or till the land in order to survive. Fortunately, Thoreau had carried the same sentiments in this regard by recognizing that living close to nature is not the only way to live. Man can live anywhere that he desire and radiates landscapes from within.
In other words, man should not live apart from nature ( which instills the necessity of going trips to the wilderness ) but recognize that nature is part of himself so that wherever he is he is able to give respect to any presentations of nature no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. Works Cited Thoreau, Henry David. “Walden”. University of Virginia. 2004. Accessed July 7, 2008 <http://xroads. virginia. edu/~HYPER/WALDEN/toc. html> Cronon, William. The Trouble with Wilderness. William Cronon Website. 2007. Accessed July 7, 2008 < http://www. williamcronon. net/writing/Trouble_with_Wilderness_Main. html>
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