Thoreau had views about life that were very different from other people. Thoreau discredited the principles that were held deeply by others, such as equating hard work with long hours of toiling. Thoreau felt that there was no need for a human being to live a life of struggle, and therefore advocated for the simple life. In order to demonstrate how possible that was, he lived a simple life and toiled minimally for his upkeep (Toews para. 4). This is made clear in his writings, from which the topics in this paper have been derived. The first document is an extrapolation of the way in which Thoreau was able to live a simple life, and the suggestions he has for readers about the same. The second document is about the relationship that one has with the environment, how an individual’s interest can determine the choice of the places they choose to live, or how the environment shapes the interests of a person. The third document is bout leisure, as it has a bearing on the simplicity of life that a person lives. The next document is about work, and describes how Thoreau made his needs less, resulting in a lesser need to work. The last one is a letter to a friend that concentrates on the role played by social interactions to enable an individual live a simple life.
Simple Life, Thoreau’s Way
Thoreau is adamant about the need for one to live a simple life. The best way to do that is to ensure that one does not concern him/herself with so many activities or responsibility at the same time. If it is necessary to focus on more than one activity, then they should not number more than half a dozen, he suggests (Thoreau 67). The other way in which one can make their life simple is to be in tune with nature, especially when it comes to waking up in the morning. The morning should be treated as a chance for rebirth and renewal, asserts Thoreau. He attributes his greatest works to the mornings, as he thought of them and composed them in the morning, when his mind was at its best. He is regretful that most people get up early in the morning to pursue manual duties as opposed to intellectual duties that would bring them more benefits and be of advantages to untold generations after their demise.
Being so concerned about the happenings of the world is another factor pointed out by Thoreau that contributes to the failure of people to live simple, happy lives. Thoreau treats all news as gossip, and is convinced that news of what is happening or has happened across the oceans does no benefit to the people in his neighborhood. He alludes to some of the items he has heard in the news lately, and they are all depressing in the negativity that they portray the society. They are news about killings, accidents and of persons committing atrocities against themselves and others (Witherell and Dubrulle para. 6). In the days of Thoreau, news did not travel as fast as it does in the present age. News from other continents used to travel by ship, and would take months to reach them. By the time the news arrived, it usually was of little or no consequence to them, and the persons in the place of news origin would have moved on. His view on the validity of news in his lifetime context might not apply today, but his take on the negativity that is spread by the news agent by reporting only tragedies persists to date. It makes people live in a perpetual state of terror making them unable to live simple, happy lives.
Discussion for Living Contexts and What We Live For
The environment is composed of various factors that facilitate the nature of our lives. This fact is clearly demonstrated in Thoreau’s life. There was an observable relationship between the physical and social contexts of his life and the passion within him as an individual (Thoreau, 63). The locations in which we are situated are determined by our passions and aspirations. They are significantly influenced by what we live for. Thoreau lived in farms, and extensive agricultural lands would fascinate him significantly (Thoreau, 62). This principle always determined his preferred locations of settlement. In this case, Thoreau would prefer the locations that were saturated with agricultural activities. This zeal for agricultural and forested areas accounted for his move from the initial settlement, which was in a boat (Thoreau, 63). Thoreau aspires to purchase an identified farm premise in the woods, but the prospective seller is influenced by the wife not to sell the premise (Thoreau, 63). Therefore, there is an importance of where we live and what we live for.
Human beings only make settlement arrangements and preferences according to the suitability of the location to support what they passionately do. According to interviews, individuals may choose a locality due to the proximity and conduciveness that associates with the daily, main activity. There has to be a congruent relationship between where we live and what we live for. Thoreau’s life in the woods reveals to him just how well nature operates without the interference of man. He gets the opportunity to hear the beautiful songs of birds without necessarily having to capture one and is awed by the nature of the lake that is nearby, and how it reflects the sky during the day and the distant stars during the night. The thickets and mountain ranges happen to serve as an inspiration to him and what he does best, which is to compose intellectual works.
Analysis of Leisure
Daily activities might entail a continuous engagement of the physical and mental energies towards tasks (Social Report, 1). What people live for brings both short-term and long-term objectives. Therefore, individuals work continuously for the satisfaction of their short-term and long-term objectives in what they live for (Bradley Hospital, 1). Thoreau would use talks through social interactions as his main leisure activity. A key fascination of his ideal farm involved its proximity to the neighbor and to the village (Thoreau, 64). Despite his scheduled engagement with the farm, Thoreau would count on social chats as an essential form of leisure. Leisure is crucial in the attainment of social wellbeing through creation of autonomy (Bradley Hospital, 1). During social interactions, Thoreau would boycott work-related commitments and this created a stable level of social autonomy and identity within him. Leisure also enhances physical strength due to its prevention of fatigue and tissue stress (Alboher, 1).
Thoreau’s schedules would be characterized by substantial allocations of leisure. The regular social interactions enhanced his physical and social wellbeing, despite the day-to-day engagements in the woods. In addition to spending time talking to others, Thoreau would also take excursions on his own to have much enjoyment (Witherell and Dubrulle para. 16). This is explicated as he describes the things he saw in nature as he took walks in the woods where he apparently seems to be living alone. He does not feel alone, since he is in the company of the animals and plants. Examples of these are the birds, mosquitoes, and the trees. He also recalls the past when he did not own a dwelling place and used to live in a boat and then a tent, proving that he was a man interested in having a good time whether with others or alone.
Thoreau was able to provide for all his needs by working for only six weeks each year while spending the rest in philosophical pursuits (simplicitycollective.com para. 7). He felt that if only the desire for money by men could be reduced, then they would be content with the wealth they have and not get caught up in greed for more that would forever keep them at work. The time given to man on earth is limited, and Thoreau felt that it should be wisely used and not wasted. He advises that people would do good to minimize their material wants (simplicitycollective.com para. 2). This would make them transform increases in income and wealth into free time as opposed to more comforts and luxury that would require more work to maintain. By working for a limited time per year, Thoreau found himself with a lot of time to study (Toews para. 4).
He said he had no reason to envy the businesspersons and professionals that were money rich and poor on time. To him, they seemed not to be living but rather enslaved by colored paper, namely money. His lifestyle did not seem plausible to most persons, but he was able to survive and get time to come up with works that we can reflect on in the present. Working towards only catering for his basics, Thoreau found himself with time enough to experiment different living conditions that he expounds well in his works (simplicitycollective.com para. 8). He had the opportunity to concentrate on the things that really mattered to him. He was greatly interested in philosophical studies, and that is what he did for the better part of his adult life. He was not interested in living his life mechanically but was geared towards making it stimulating intellectually. As a result, his views on life have remained relevant to the present day, challenging the mainstream views held by most people regarding work and life.
Letter to a friend about social experience
A simple life mainly involves minimized conflict and frustration. While this seems to be impractical or distant from reality, individuals like Thoreau achieved a substantial level of it. As friends, we define each other’s social circle and make sacrifices towards each other. The element of sacrifice defines us as a social unit of friendship. It is a key ingredient in our mutual associations in social contexts. The sacrifices and efforts invested towards the friendship are vital for the social bond. Actually, the friendship is equally important as our individual lives. This is because it satisfies an important social role of mutual interaction and belonging. I consider the friendship as a basic component of living a simple life. As the social bond reduces frustration and creates support, it as well contributes significantly to the simplicity of life. I express my sincere acknowledgement of our friendship. It contributes to a level of simplicity in our lives.
I am in a way always perplexed by the way in which we always get along even when holding different opinions on various aspects of life. It takes great understanding to have my beliefs that are divergent to yours and sometimes even conflicting, and yet respect the views of each other. We always find a middle ground somehow and are able to work around it. Dialogue between the two of us is usually very stimulating and I always look forward to them. You somehow always give objective outlook on issues whenever I am in a dilemma and make decision making for me simpler. The best thing about this is that you never prescribe or recommend, but leave a suggestion hanging in the air, for me to choose or reject. Whichever decision I make, you are never judgmental, and that is why I feel free to inform you of my troubles and intentions. I am eternally grateful for the friendship we share, for it has contributed greatly towards my simple living.
The first topic talks about the different ways that had been suggested by Thoreau on how a person can live a simple life. His views of a simple life are based on his own experiences. This not only makes them have less stress, but also be more efficient at their work. Following the rhythm of nature is another pointer given by Thoreau in making a person’s life simply. He is adamant that waking up earlier to pursue intellectual or spiritual pursuits makes one have a happier simpler life. This document gives me concrete ideas on how I might strive to live a simple life as Thoreau did. The second topic is on the significance of the environment that an individual lives in and its interests. Thoreau lived in farms and places that contained much natural vegetation because these intrigued him, and made him reflective and creative. The farm was also the place that he grew up in, and maybe he had become conditioned to have the farms as the only place where he could thrive.
The third topic is on leisure. It explains the meaning of leisure and goes on to describe how Thoreau used to spend his free time talking to other people and getting to know more about farming. At times, he got so much knowledge about the buying and selling of land from these stimulating talks that he had with the farmers. To many, leisure might be associated with great comforts and expenses that undermine the simplicity of life. Thoreau teaches us how leisure can be gotten from almost insignificant activities that cost persons nothing more than time, hence contributing positively to a simple life. Thoreau was also an adventurer and liked spending a lot of time in nature, especially in the wood when not doing his studies. The fourth topic is on work, and concentrates on the views that Thoreau had on work. His opinion on work is a bit radical and the little amount of time that he spent actually working sounds unbelievable. As work is closely related to leisure, this topic builds on the previous one about leisure. The last topic is in form of a letter to a friend describing how social interaction between the sender and recipient has contributed to simple living. This letter demonstrates the need for one to interact well with others in order to have a simple life.
The three discussed topics were chosen out of the need to address the challenges faced in the modern world. Many people are trying to live a life that they cannot afford just because they want other people to see how they live a better life. The topics relate in a sense that living a simple life should not mean that an individual detaches him/herself from what they environment provides to him/her. The environment around someone should be harness to promote simple life and time should be set aside to allow an individual to indulge in other life interests that are not costly. The lesson learnt is that Work does not need to occupy most of a person’s time, but should be a means to get basic needs, while the rest of the time is used pursuing personal interests (leisure). Individuals should make a point of reducing the number of worries that they are holding at any one time by reducing the number of responsibilities held or the tasks they are to accomplish. The environment and an individual’s past plays a crucial role in enabling one to live a simple life.
Alboher, Marci. “Leisure’s starring role in a complete life.”New York Times. 2008.
Bradley Hospital. “Why is Leisure important.”Bradley Hospital. 2014. l
Simplicitycollective.com.’Thoreau on Working Hours | The Simplicity Collective’. Web. 1 Mar. 2015.
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Thoreau, Henry. Walden or Life in the Woods. New York: The Internet Book Mobile. 1854.
Toews, Rockford E. ‘One Less Accountant’. Thoreau.eserver.org. N.p., 2001. Web. 1 Mar. 2015.
Witherell, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth Dubrulle. ‘The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau’. Thoreau.library.ucsb.edu. N.p., 1995. Web. 1 Mar. 2015.