Solitude Notes from Walden

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Walden Solitude

In the evenings, Thoreau takes walks through the woods. He absorbs the surroundings through every part of his body, through osmosis almost. When he returns to his cabin after these lovely walks, he finds tokens of peoples' visits. He says that people who do not come to the woods very often always absentmindedly pick something up as they walk. In addition to physical signs of visitors, Thoreau is able to detect the scent of visitors and nearby travelers - often by the lingering smoke from a pipe. However, what is most exciting to him is his own horizon - stars, moon, and sun, which he has in solitude as if he were in the middle of Africa. That is because, at night, there is a fear of the dark that drives visitors away.

Topic Tracking: Water 2

In the next few paragraphs, Thoreau takes a systemic view on the bad weather he faces. Rain is good somewhere, for something, even if it causes floods near him, and forces him to stop working for days at a time. He is so sympathetic partially because he finds such a good society in nature. Also, he finds the dramatic pelting rain, wind, thunder, and lightening very dramatic and beautiful.

When asked if he is lonely in this apparently hostile environment, he responds:

"This whole earth which we inhabit is but a point in space. How far apart, think you, dwell the two most distant inhabitants of yonder star, the breadth of whose disk cannot be appreciated by our instruments? Why should I feel lonely? Is not our planet in the Milky Way? This which you put seems to me not to be the most important question. What sort of space is that which separates a man from his fellows and makes him solitary? I have found that no exertion of the legs can bring two minds much nearer to one another." Solitude, pg. 130

He says that a wise man will know to dig their cellar in a place such as Walden, and not busy themselves with selling things only to accumulate more material riches.

Topic Tracking: Intellectual Space 1
Topic Tracking: Awaking for Reform 2

He says that a businessman who is dead to his experiences will not know to wake up in a place like Walden where the things of central importance are our immediate surroundings and the workman next to us, whose work, he says, we are.

Topic Tracking: Intellectual Space 2

He separates himself from his thinking mind, saying that the part of the self that reflects inward can be made external to the self. The tasks and events of life are external to us. Most importantly, this external part of the self belongs to no one - it is entirely independent. In this environment, solitude is relative and not lonely. Society, on the other hand, is cheap and interferes with our sense of ourselves, because we do not have the space to think. We get in each other's way. We do not need to touch people to understand their value/importance to us. In the woods, God and Mother Earth are his company, which is plenty for him.

In this environment, there are certain things more precious than anything else. One is the morning air, which won't keep even until noon. Keep it if you can, he says, but it will get stale pretty fast.

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