Life At Its Simplestemerson Thoreau As Applied To Modern Living

.. job. But no Stairmaster? No fan? No drinking fountain? How will I know how many calories I’ve burned? And who will be around to watch me look cute in my little workout outfit? This simple living is getting highly inconvenient. Day 6 Catastrophe! Last night my roommate mistook my cell phone for hers. Now my phone, my link to life, is on a plane on it’s way to New York! Going as frequently as I do between my boyfriend’s place and mine (and primarily because my father pays the bill) the only phone line I have is my cell phone. I use it for everything, absolutely everything. Arranging rides, dealing with banks, landlords, potential employers, co-ordinating schedules with my boy, my roommates, my sister.

I don’t even know my sister’s phone number–all I ever do is get her on speed dial. Not only can I not reach anyone, but also no one can reach me. It’s like I’m suddenly alone. I know my other roommate is out of school by now. If only I could call her, I could arrange to trade off her parking pass instead of driving around fighting for free parking.

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If I had my phone, I could also call my gym on the way to school and cancel my membership before I start accumulating late fees. (Today is the absolute final deadline to cancel.) I could also check in with my internship and let them know I’m running late today, to avoid stern faces when I finally do arrive. Now, driving around trying to find this restaurant I’m supposed to meet my boyfriend at, I wonder how people used to get around without cell phones? Did they just give better directions? Did they just arrange meeting times and actually stick to them? This is pathetic. I am at the mercy of technology! Thoreau predicted this mess when he wrote, “Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevations of mankind.” ( I’ll have to agree–without the cell phone, mankind is definitely hindered. Thankfully, I get in touch with Miss New York and she agrees to Next-Day my phone to me, assuming, of course, that I Next-Day hers to New York.

More dollars on the credit card. Day 10 Okay. I have my cell phone back. I have cash from my father. I’m actually enjoying my break from the gym.

(I’ve found so many shortcuts in the woods I never knew existed!) We’ve put the television in a new spot, so we’re getting three channels and sometimes four. Things are looking up, and then .. We lose power. This is the grand finale to my Emersonian/Thoreauvian experience. You really don’t know how much you rely on a department such as PG&E until it’s gone. Our total reliance makes this state’s energy crisis pretty scary.

My house loses power around 5 PM, just before dinner is started. I call PG&E from my cell phone (thank God for cell phones!) only to learn that our ex-roommate, whose name our account is still listed under, has requested that the account be terminated. Thank you, Nicole, for the notification. Danny, the unsympathetic operator, tells me we will have power again sometime tomorrow when the new account is activated. This leaves us powerless all night.

Uh, problem. Tonight we’re showing Nicole’s old room to potential roommates. The first appointment is in 30 minutes, and we can’t get in touch with any of our appointments because we didn’t take any numbers. We hear the phone ring, but we can’t pick it up to warn them not to come. It’s a cordless phone.

We frantically search the house for candles and flashlights. We light all the candles, which fill the room a variety of scents, and which then sets the smoke alarm off. We open the windows to air out the house and shut the stupid alarm up, but it’s freezing outside, and we have no heat. People keep showing up, and we have to keep turning them away – you can’t show a house if you can’t see it. When talk of dinner comes up, we realize that not only can we not cook dinner, but all the food in our ‘fridge/freezer is going to rot. And, my roommate can’t run the washer/dryer to wash the clothes she needs for work the next morning.

So here we are, bundled up, blind, hungry, irritated by the incessant smoke alarm, turning potential roommates away, losing food, losing jobs, and beginning to realize that life is difficult. The next morning my car breaks down. “I rely on my love for some things,” writes Thoreau. When your things are gone, what else do you really have? The things I went without on these days can seem so trivial, so simple. But tell me, who has time today to walk for hours when it would take a few minutes driving in a car? Who has time to do the wash by hand instead of using a washing machine? To plan a lunch three days ahead? When it comes down to it, the little things are the least trivial of all. One can ask why today’s society is so pressed for time, so reliant on instant gratification, but that’s about as effective as asking why the sky is blue.

(The length of light waves that the human eye can see makes the sky blue, but that’s beside the point.) “Time hides no treasures; we want not its then, but its now,” states Thoreau. Emerson and Thoreau implore that as humans we take a step back, out of our daily routine, so we can see that evolution of the celebration of convenience in today’s society has us trapped. We think we need all the things life can provide. What about all the stress and anxiety that is caused by living with these complicated simplifiers? The question is: why don’t we take a break? Do we humans honestly believe that the way we live our lives now is the way it must be done? I may think I need all the things modern life has to offer, that Emersonian and Thoreauvian concepts can’t apply to my life, but look how lost I grew when my things were taken away. Maybe it’s time for me to re-evaluate my priorities.

Maybe Emerson and Thoreau’s writing is less extreme than we think. Philosophy Essays.


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