The Totalization of Shadows, Part XXV
The choice to go to the woods in order to live deliberately clearly wasn’t deliberated: it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. I don’t think it was even a choice—I think it was a compulsion of some sort. As is well known, Thoreau didn’t achieve independence or autonomy at Walden Pond…His mother often delivered “care packages” to him, and the general feel I have for Thoreau’s experience is of an adolescent experimenting with the illusions and pretences of independence and autonomy without having the slightest real experiences of either, while the rest of us indulge this illusion—I wonder why.
I suppose to live deliberately (if "deliberately" can be considered synonymous with "thoughtfully",) could be the entire aim of a culture—what has happened to a culture when the only way to achieve what culture must nourish is to leave culture (if only symbolically)? Nature would take on in function precisely what culture was to do—nourish the specifically human.
Thoreau’s contemporaries didn’t appreciate Thoreau’s experiment—even Emerson felt it was a waste. That could be explained by Thoreau being ahead of his time—I remember Thoreau’s enormous influence in America in the late sixties through the seventies—he was a hero. I knew someone who treated Walden as scripture and had memorized most of the aphoristic parts of it (not so much the nature descriptions—I think that’s significant,) –Thoreau’s experiment was replicated maybe tens of thousands of times (but this is over for good, I think.) The influence was so far-reaching I have felt it had come to define something distinctly American. Culture and society, if not exactly bankrupt, chafe and inhibit. We can relax by getting away from them,( we don’t feel a need to notice the extent we take them with us when we relax in RVs in a developed “wilderness parks” any more than Thoreau noticed his continuing dependence on Concord society.In both cases,my opinion is the awareness is repressed.)
I’m trying to get at Totalization considered as the closed; a strategy for overcoming it considered as the leaving of culture and society; nature considered as an objective or given antidote to Totalization to which we believe can avail ourselves,if we have the means and if we choose. Also, I am trying to dig something out of Thoreau which is coming from his entirely conventional rationality which he and later others nevertheless experience(and I believe misunderstand) as mysticism.