So today I went out for a walk as I am want to do, and as per usual I took a book with me. So I do the entire 10K marked on the little walking trail and started thinking about everything I had seen and read. I looked at the notes I had written down in the book and in my daily notebook, notes on what the author, in this case Henry David Thoreau, was talking about and what I had seen around me.
What a perfect way to review a book. Especially one as dry and droll yet insightful as Walden by Henry David Thoreau. Also, topical as it addresses many of the ideas that Thoreau brings up in Walden, i.e. the futility of man, simplification, walking, looking at shit. There’s even a whole part about birds and guess what was outside today? Birds. Weird, huh?
Bit of a disclaimer, this is not a full review. This is only what I was thinking about while I walked. I will do a full review of what I didn’t like, liked, ect. when I finish the book and it will be its own thing.
So here we go:
Let me set the scene: I walk on an abandoned rail line that the city/county/state/whomever deemed fit to tear up the tracks of and throw down some asphalt. It runs 40 miles and is quiet nice if crowded on a Saturday. Personally, I enjoyed it more when it was still railway lines, the rocks, ties and tracks keeping the plants from growing up too far and making a great quiet retreat in the middle of town. It is a haven of suburban moms chasing after kids, the elderly often riding in motorized things, and college kids getting exercise.
Between my apartments and this track are two gas stations and a two-story, sixteen unit apartment complex. I run across the street, dodging cars and am hit with the smell of cooking tamales and motor oil. The complex is run down, one of the cheaper in town to be this close to a college campus. I wonder if I would rather live next to an apartment of drug dealers, or an apartment with six kids as I walk past on onto the track.
I open my book and turn to where I last left off. Mr. Thoreau is discussing building his home on Walden Pond, the cost and measures he took to build it and all his homes. He deliberates on how he built his home, yet others rent or buy places that are larger than they need. He talks later on how he nearly bought a place because of its seclusion when he himself had only ever owned a boat and a tent. He talks about all this, preaching to the people about living simply and without charity, but never reveals beyond living how he cared for himself this entire time beyond some basic economics. He is educated, yet we know little else about him as a narrator. I could see finding meaning in his words, yet he gives no reason for me to listen to him.
Even he, just a bit later, points out that he cannot lecture against something he has not been a part of, yet he gives us little evidence as to why we should be listening to him about the evils of a modern society. The evils he clearly believes in as he rants against the railroad and telegraph as passionately as some librarians I know do against the Internet. He sees the progress of mankind as a hindrance to our essential natures, yet gives little evidence to his own succumbing to these evils. Throughout most of the text one can almost feel Mr. Thoreau slapping himself on the back, congratulating himself on not seeing most of the wanton nature of life, of “gettin it” and not being persuaded. More than most philosophers, Mr. Thoreau is gross in his indulgence in not just his idea, but his application of the idea to his life. Wow. I did not know I disliked this book so much.
While reading and disliking not Mr. Thoreau’s idea but the man Mr. Thoreau presents himself to be, I saw several things that do not in the slightest relate.
I will never understand bicyclists. I am cool and a part of the community of people who ride bikes, but bicyclists seem to be a world of their own. I do not understand rearview mirrors on helmets. Why wear skin tight matching racing gear for a nice ride down the bike path? And why the hell insist on yelling “On Your Left” when you pass when I’m the only one around for a quarter mile? You are not ninja bicyclist. Your shit makes noise in the neighborhood of all of it. And if I had headphones on, I could not hear you either way and would be happier for it.
I had a random thought if parents are ever truly afraid their kids will grow up to be assholes. Must ask a parent some time and chart the denial factors.
Okay old people. If you need a motorized anything on the walking track, stay your Meals-On-Wheels ass at home. An example for today: a man in woman in a golf cart with a weenie dog on a leash. They were “walking” a dachshund with a golf cart. That’s just landing in the dumb and making a dumb castle and dumb angels.
Finally, if I know anything about relationships, it is that “on bicycles” is the worst place to have them unless you are both in awesome shape. A few reasons. Arguing on bicycles is not like walking where you can grab the other person without consequence. Slap a boyfriend on a bike and its possible both of you could break some shit falling. And peoples, no matter what has been said or felt, do not leave your significant other more than ten feet behind you struggling with their sad ass to catch up when they obviously are dreaming of couches and Cheetos. They will hate you in everyway, physical, mental and sexually, because no matter what you can do to them, they realize now they have been doing so much worse to themselves. I saw at least three cases of relationships where one partner clearly did not want to be there and I started placing bets on whether I would ever see them together again.
My walk finished with the Thoreau quote machine that is Where I Lived and What I Lived For. If you know nothing about Walden but have a passing knowledge of English Literature, this is what you know. A few paragraphs sum up the best of this book with the why’s and how’s of existentialism that the rest of the book goes at length to lay out. I wish it had all been like this, the bare bones eloquence of the words. The love and passion of being alive he talks about is stirring, enriching. I leave you with my favorite passage:
“It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”