Henry David Thoreau is a man of many facets; a man who refuses to conform to what the masses believe is acceptable. He calls for the rejection of complexity and for a change in mankind’s view of life. Thoreau, in his many writings, demands change in a stagnant society. He emphasizes respect for nature, even to the point of blatant disrespect for humanity. Thoreau’s connection to nature was a key ingredient in his lifestyle. He studied ants closely; hoping to understand them like one understands the human race.
He came to the conclusion that either ants are as dignified as men, or that men have lowered themselves to the ant’s position. He stressed the futility of war, showing in vivid detail that war does irreparable damage to both armies. He argued that we do not fight for what is right, but for our own selfish ways. This, Thoreau believed, was one of man’s deepest flaws. Henry David Thoreau also believed that society was mentally stagnant. He claimed that humanity d welled too much on the ideals and thoughts of men who had died long ago.
“The foregoing generations beheld God face to face,” he said, “Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition?” Thoreau obsessed with stirring the conscience of his peers, which eventually drove him to jail in protest of an ‘oppressive government.’ He accentuated the importance of thinking for ourselves and acting on those thoughts. He understood that a blindness had fallen over his culture, and he struggled to rouse those who couldn’t rouse themselves. For all of Thoreau’s brilliance, he was also a man plagued by his own mind. His ideas of a “Universal Mind” and ‘Being’ instead of ‘Living’s eem foolish to me.
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I would have to say that, if I had met Thoreau in his own time, I would have agreed to his insanity. His teachings on Transcendentalism seem somewhat bizarre to me. How can a stream be too deep “for the length of your arm… not for the length of your mind?” Perhaps Thoreau was a truly intelligent man who simply blew a fuse pondering life too hard. Perhaps he was a great intellectual man who understood what was most important in life, and I am but a detached person with no understanding. Either way, Thoreau and I would never get along.
Thoreau’s most obvious underlying message is resistance. He didn’t learn the alphabet like everyone else, but he learned it sdrawkcab! After his aunt paid his taxes, he “EXCOMMUNICATED [HER] FROM THE MILKY WAY! !” These are signs of resistance and rebellion taken to an insanely excessive point. My conclusion, after much pondering and reading, is that Thoreau is a multi-faceted man who cannot be classified as either brilliant or insane, but simply a man with his own ideas, however foreign they may be.