Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau: Lecture Essay
Henry D. Thoreau gave an intellectually stimulating lecture. His political and environmental stances enchanted the audience. His ideas are indicative of self-reliance, simplicity and appreciation. His delivery invited each listener to actively enjoy what he said. Thoreau presented his lecture so that the audience had no choice but to ponder and think about what he said. He was passionate in what he said, as his values and views leaked into the audience like a stream branching out from a river.The following is what I took away from his speech.
Thoreau began his speech by addressing his purpose of living alone-a word of discussion in his lecture- and in the woods of Concord. I quoted a passage that he derived from his own book, under the assumption that it was something of significance, either to the audience or himself. In either case, his statement would reveal a part of Thoreau that was of importance to him. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone let him be where he will. (p. 123)
Thoreau paused after he read. My initial response to this statement was to think about it. So solitude is physically a friend to you? He answered my question before I could question him. In the absence of people, he had befriended the seasons. He continued to speak of his Natural friends, like the birds who sang for him, and the rain, which entertained him. Thoreaus idea of solitude was that solitude is simply a different state of mind. Instead of the events and actions of other people, he discerned that ones own actions, thoughts and imagination were of equal value. As he spoke, I began to appreciate what he said. His digression from society wasnt the result of dislike for it, but a personal value of living through his own eyes, rather than others eyes. He did not need material things to measure life.
Thoreaus next venture featured a fisherman. A quiet man who fished by himself at Walden Pond. Thoreau told a story of this man who came to the pond near everyday in the spring and summer. He fished from the shore, never on a boat. Something separated this man from the rest of those who came to fish. After he caught the fish, no matter the size, he would pack up his gear and leave.
Where was this story leading? Thoreau admired the man who satisfied himself so easily, although he never spoke to the man. I wondered if it was a true story. Why would a guy want only one fish? Why so easily satisfied? My mind raced as he spoke, trying to devour and process the words that he said. Suddenly, without contemplation, I asked Thoreau a question.
Mr. Thoreau, I said. This man you speak of is different from many in his ways. He travels such a distance for such a tiny reward. Why does he settle for less when he could have more without much marginal effort?
Thoreau smiled for the first time during his speech, like he was entertained by my inquiry.
My answer can be no better than yours. That was all Thoreau said. At least he wasnt egotistical. His answer seemed to raise me to his level. My answer was just as good as any other answer in the room. Maybe the guy didnt even like fish; he just wanted to be outside. Or maybe his son drowned there in the pond, and he needed to have a part of him everyday, no matter how big or small of a part it may be.
Thoreau continued to talk of the fisherman. Although quiet, the man was not silent. He smiled when others greeted him, and offered his hand when other fishermen sought to launch their boats. He loves his life, which is something that not everyone experiences, Thoreau glanced at me. Is it not easier to be happy when your wants are few?
Here Thoreau began his conclusion to his lecture. The universe