Thoreau On Walking

The comments here are on a selection from Thoreau’s “Walking” that appears in a textbook Nature, Aesthetics, and Environmentalism ed. Allen Carlson and Sheila Lintott, Columbia university Press, New York, 2008. All rates are from webpages 54-56. I am using this text message in my graduate workshop on looks presently. Ideally I should be commenting on Thoreau’s essay all together, but I like the limitation of utilizing a selection, or in this post, an array of a range.

Much of the eye in reading a writer from another time is to attempt to understand the world a little as he does, examining his experience against one’s own, as well as perhaps finding one’s own a little wanting. Thoreau starts his essay by identifying Nature (he capitalizes it!) with “total freedom and wildness.” This alone requires the present-day reader to stretch his / her imagination: I at least wouldn’t normally associate these words closely together.

For me, character is merely the world, i.e. what’s, and some from it is more free, some less free, some more crazy, some less outrageous. But obviously Thoreau is discussing a little part of what I call “nature” when he speaks of Nature. Moreover, it appears clear that he could be speaking not only of a type of place but of a type of experience associated with a kind of place. The type of place is really wherever he took his walks, i.e. within ten all of his home of Concord, Massachusetts. The sort of experience is one seen as feelings of overall independence and wildness.

The feeling of wildness is associated both with the fact that the area is wild which one is oneself crazy or wilder than at home. Thoreau also strains that he wants to make “an extreme statement” i.e. as a champion of Nature. He wants to see the man as a part of Nature than within culture rather.

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But it also turns out that he believes there are enough champions of civilized culture already. So, perhaps his “extreme statement” is a rhetorical device and he does not want to wholly dispute the worthiness of civilization. Actually, there are numerous passages in his writings that show a deep love of reading and reading the classics at that.

The second paragraph begins by observing that he has met few who’ve understood the artwork of Walking (his caps. Of interest here for the aesthetician is the very idea that Walking is definitely a creative artwork. We do speak of the creative artwork of conversation. Walking can be an art of this sort Perhaps. He then speaks of the genius (which term was, at that right time, from the fine artist) of SAUNTERING (his caps!), his term for the artwork of Walking. The implication is that walking can be considered a creative, art-like activity.

I can hardly claim to learn anything of walking in this sense, yet, when reading Thoreau, I must connect him with my own experience. Like Thoreau, I often take walks from my home, although much shorter ones, plus much more urban. I live near the center of San Jose, a city of almost a million people, spread out over miles. One walk I take is towards Olinder park, a park that was open grasslands and a clump of pine trees when I first moved here, but now has a green park lawn and marked trails. It is a small park of the few acres bounded on the south by a freeway and on the east by Coyote Creek.