Walden

Did you know that Walden was made into a video game?

It’s ironic how academia has chosen to turn Thoreau’s transcendental work into a work of technology, with the video game and the fluid-text edition.

This may seem contrary to Thoreau’s espousal of reality and simplicity. After all, he thought the best way to get around was on foot. Thoreau saw technology as the opposite to the new simplicity, but it could be that simplicity is relative to time. As noted by a site called Simplicity Collective, “…the television, for example, is a remarkable human achievement, and yet, aside from sleeping and working, the television now consumes more time of the typical North American or Briton than any other activity, and other ‘advanced societies’ watch almost as much. One does not have to be an ‘elitist’ to have doubts about whether this is really the best way to spend our freedom.”

The site went on to say, “The problem is that technology is often just there – fascinating, new, socially celebrated, affordable, and available – and it is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that, since earlier generations did without it, we ‘moderns’/’postmoderns’ must therefore have progressed, that we are necessarily better off,” which the site said Thoreau would reply by saying it, “Pernicious nonsense.”

The best indication of what Thoreau thought of technology, from the text is the sentence, “Though we are not so degenerate but that we might possibly live in a cave or a wigwam or wear skins today, it certainly is better to accept the advantages, though so dearly bought, which the invention and industry of mankind offer.”

Thousands of dollars were spent by USC to create the Walden video game. Thoreau would undoubtedly refrain from condoning the expense spent, but perhaps the scholar in him and the work of obvious love that the game is would lead him to enjoy it.

“My purpose in going to Walden Pond was not to live cheaply nor to live dearly there, but to transact some private business with the fewest obstacles; to be hindered from accomplishing which for want of a little common sense, a little enterprise and business talent, appeared not so sad as foolish.” – Walden, Henry David Thoreau

I unwittingly read Walden and posted today’s “Quote of the Day” on the anniversary of Walden’s publication. Upon realizing this, I took it up as my goal of the day to read all of Walden, speed reading if necessary, and composing conducted research at a pace I never thought possible of me to talk about the book John Updike said, “risks being as revered and unread as the Bible,” all the while being Thor-ough — I had to.

Much has been said of Walden. Notabley by Indiana, Pennsylvania native Edwardy Abbey, whose “Down the River with Henry Thoreau” a work notable for its critique of Thoreau and is somehow relevant to today, with its talks of immigration and the following excerpt that occurs early in the work

“We will not see other humans or learn of the election results for ten days to come. And so we prefer it. We like it that way. What could be older than the news? We shall treasure the bliss of our ignorance for as long as we can. “The man who goes each day to the village to hear the latest news has not heard from himself in a long time.” Who said that? Henry, naturally. The arrogant, insolent village crank. I think of another bumper sticker, one I’ve seen several times in several places this year: NOBODY FOR PRESIDENT. Amen.” – “Down the River with Henry Thoreau” Eward Abbey

As much as Walden was an obvious influence on Abbey, he says in “with Henry Thoreau,” “I do not approve of his fastidious puritanism. For one who claims to crave nothing but reality, he frets too much about purity. Purity, purity, he preaches, in the most unctuous of his many sermons, a chapter of Walden called ‘Higher Laws.'”

While Abbey adopted the southwest as his home, his voice as a writer has all the moxie only the hills of Pennsyltucky can breed. 

Thoreau spent a great amount of time reflecting on his time in voluntary isolation. Theories of his inspiration continue to be supposed, but whatever the inspiration, it undoubtedly left a lasting effect on him that created his master work. It reads as a work a mix of philosophical work and memoir while being embellished by poetics, thus combining every realm of Thoreau’s writing.

I was driven to read Walden out of my own desire to be more at one with nature that has endured for a number of years. Yes, I live on a hill and see more deer than people during my summers, but I don’t fully appreciate the nature around me, and I it my  hope and belief that I am not alone.

If Walden should inspire anything, it should inspire the reader to find their own Walden, there own place where they can commune with the natural. For me, that was the camper in my maternal grandparent’s backyard, and the childhood campouts on the porch, granted I did not spend two years there. Walden promotes the idea of getting away from it all for the sake of enrichment and clearing one’s mind like one clears a forest of its trees, minus the devastation and noise, and you are free to get away for however long you want.

 

 

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