Book of the Month: Discussion

 

     Good morning! Today, we are discussing September's Book of the Month: Walden! I ended up loving it, and it was refreshing to read something insightful for a change. Usually, I just love a good story, but every now and then, it's important to read books that require a deeper thought process than just reactions to an exciting plot twist. Some have called this book boring, and in a way, it is. There's really no dialogue, but once you get past the general expectation that all books require dialogue, you can accept this book as one man's point of view on the state of his life, and read it as an opinion piece on the principles of living.

     Thoreau covers topics whose relevancy is everlasting. Economy, solitude, and self-reliance are all essential to the understanding of what is necessary to truly live a minimal life. Walden was Thoreau's experiment to test his own independence from money, company, and in general, the expected "necessities" put forth by society. Can he really live away from the rest of the world, on very little money (which back then, was even littler than today's living standards), and without the luxuries that most people subconsciously deemed vital? That was the ultimate question. Whether it was actually un-civilized to lead a perfectly productive life alone in the woods was what he sought to answer.

     On economy, Thoreau points out that he built and constructed his own house in the woods, for far less than the average family pays each month to live in an already built house. He makes the argument that if we utilize what's readily available to us, it makes better economic sense in the long run to just do it yourself. Humans are capable of making their own things, but most choose to buy instead, in the end paying more for the convenience than the product itself. Obviously, this is still true today, though I've taken to making when I can and only buying when necessary. Most consumers still prefer to do what's easiest, which is their prerogative, but brings us to Thoreau's point that it's unnecessary. You can build your own house, you can make your own tomato sauce, and you can shine your own shoes. It is possible to live life with very little and get along just fine, which is a lesson I think most would agree is very useful to remember.

     On solitude, Thoreau proves that life alone is doable, but don't expect to not hear voices as your mind adjusts to not hearing any real ones for awhile. It's hard to be alone sometimes, but it's essential to being well adjusted. How can you live a sociable and authentic life, without first flourishing solely on your own? You can't interact genuinely with others until you've been alone with your own thoughts. You must know yourself before you can really know anyone else, and Thoreau succeeds in that aspect. Solitude gave him that, and it also made him go a little insane for a bit. When you don't have anyone to interact with, your mind interacts with itself, which I would venture to say is normal in that situation. It's your brains way of working it's own problems out, and all you have to do is listen to find understanding. Being alone made Thoreau appreciate company in a way that he wouldn't have otherwise.

     On self-reliance, Thoreau learned it's possible to be independent from all of the things society says we should be dependent on: money, each other, the government, etc. It's extreme, but it's true. You can hunt and farm your own food, you can build a house without assistance, as stated above, you can resource and protect your life without help from officials. Minimal existence can be lived, but it's important to remember that you don't have to isolate yourself to achieve some of these aspects of an essentialist lifestyle. Thoreau lives it but ultimately leaves it, having learned what he needed to from that life. Adopting key principles from Mr. Thoreau will do the trick, and in my opinion, that's the point of this book. He's not saying, you have to do all of these things that I did to get there, but he is saying that you can learn from his experience. Live your life with these things in mind, and you'll find happiness in your independence from self-doubt and the pressure that society puts on the public.

    I'm curious to know your own thoughts on Walden, so leave me some comments below or email me to discuss further! Thanks for reading, and have a great day!