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Thread: Great Books of INTPx: Walden by Thoreau

  1. #1
    Senior Member Starjots's Avatar
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    Great Books of INTPx: Walden by Thoreau

    Quote Originally Posted by Osito Polar View Post
    I'd like it if we had threads for in-depth discussion of Great Books, however you'd care to define that.

    Walden by Henry David Thoreau -- imo, this is THE brilliant work of INTP literature
    Maybe it was timing, but I read Walden around 25 and it rocked my world view. When I was belatedly trying to patch up a marriage going south by standing up for my ideals (after torpedoing it to begin with), I argued with my then-wife about Thoreau. She thought he was the worst sort of person and his views were poison, which genuinely shocked me. For one thing, I doubt she ever read Walden beyond a few quotes in some essays attacking the man's ideas as radical. It was clarifying to find my mate had slid so far into the life trap Thoreau so clearly warns against in the opening pages of Walden. What it really meant was that we were two very different sorts of people.

    Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them. Their fingers, from excessive toil, are too clumsy and tremble too much for that. Actually, the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity day by day; he cannot afford to sustain the manliest relations to men ; his labor would be depreciated in the market. He has no time to be anything but a machine.
    This was what we had become in a nutshell - efficient and successful by all external measures without picking any of the finer fruits. We were genuinely very different on a fundamental level. She was satisfied, happy to be a machine, enjoying the external feedback signals of success and internalizing them as her own soul (this line is too good to fuck up with qualifiers, but you know this is too absolute a statement to be fully true).

    Thoreau plots out and explores one end of the dipole of being human, the individual. He frankly abandons the other pole, the group, disdains it and mocks it. It's not like there isn't enough said and written about the joys of conformity, the tide of history, the winning friends and influencing people side of it all. Normally when someone goes too far toward this end of the dipole, they are decried as selfish or greedy. In the prisoner's dilemma, they are the ones who always betray you according to the collectivist script. It is liberating to hear that the other side of the coin can be shiny too.

    If I am disillusioned or unworthy of this book it comes with my indifference to the second half. The first part of Walden is absolutely brilliant IMO. The second half sets the tone for the Emerson crowd, extolling the virtues of nature and walking around in the woods. At least that's what I remember. Once you've jettisoned the rest of humanity what is there left to do? It's like the first Matrix movie that way. The real 'holy shit' is in the first half. The second half is standard 'guns, lots of guns' except its nature instead of guns. And that's the flip side of any pure work really. You have to be pure to get a really good look at the unexplored territory, the south pole of being human (the north pole being pure group dynamics). But it isn't a picture that scales or is super dynamic. It just helps keep you balanced.

    Perhaps that is why he was so careful to say how little one needed to stay alive and be content. True enough, but he lived on borrowed land, used borrowed tools to make his simple cabin and moved back into town after less than two years. We don't live at the south pole or the north pole for long, but favor the temperate zone because living is much easier there.

    Because the dangers of the modern world have always been more from too much conformity rather than too little, I think Walden is a great and timely book for the ages.

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    When Thoreau comes to mind a whole mindset assembles and sets up camp.
    For the life of me I can't imagine how INxx types can live in cities.
    I was painfully shy as a child and did a lot of growing up in a rural area about 10 miles from Cooperstown, NY when visiting my maternal grandparents.
    When not there I was in an outer suburb of a City in Oneida County, NY ... where perhaps half the kids were farm kids and the other half had parents which worked in `the city'.
    I ALWAYS has forests and fields to walk in.
    Those forests and fields soothed my soul.

    Thoreau doesn't seem all that atypical or foreign to me; what he expresses is what I experienced growing up in the fields and forests ... away from the artificial and superficial to be found while living among clusters of hominids in cities.
    The first time I ever saw a human being spit in another's face was in Navy boot camp; it was some punk off the streets of NYC.
    I'm pretty sure that neither Thoreau nor I ever encountered that while in the fields and forests.

    If Introverted iNtutives could be diagnosed at birth they should be raised away from the cities and in places like those frequented by Thoreau.

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    Scobblelotcher Sistamatic's Avatar
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    A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold is a good read for many of the same reasons Thoreau is.

    When I was in grad school, the fieldwork I did in order to gather the data for my thesis involved me hiking into wilderness areas alone, usually from some forgotten dirt road behind a locked forest service gate, and then, beyond that, navigating with map and compass with no trails up to an hour or two beyond where I left the car. The equipment was such that I'd usually spend a day hauling things in, then spend up to nine days living in a little tent. The area was so rural there was no air traffic and no cell phone reception, and the canyons prevented even picking up radio stations. I'd spend that time without any sort of human contact whatsoever. After a time, I'd pack it all out, bring my data and samples back to the lab, spend a couple of days dealing with the affairs of life in the human world, then turn around and do it again at a new site. I did that all summer for 3 consecutive summers, and I felt as though I was becoming a Thoreau-like creature. The drive back to civilization was always so jarring. We become desensitized to the ludicrous by civilization, and living in the absence of it puts it all back into sharp focus. My dreams are so often of being back in that place of uninterrupted consciousness, where stripped of the burden of the perceptions of others, I was left with nothing but myself. It is the freest I have ever been.

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    Mens bona regnum possidet ferrus's Avatar
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    I plan to have read this by the end of tomorrow.
    Die Logik ist keine Lehre, sondern ein Spiegelbild der Welt. Die Logik ist transcendental. - Wittgenstein

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    Quote Originally Posted by Starjots View Post

    Perhaps that is why he was so careful to say how little one needed to stay alive and be content. True enough, but he lived on borrowed land, used borrowed tools to make his simple cabin and moved back into town after less than two years. We don't live at the south pole or the north pole for long, but favor the temperate zone because living is much easier there.
    Not enough is said of this. I read him in college, but perhaps I will go back for a second read. I didn't pick up on this dimension of things at all, only the "nature" dimension of it. The virtues of teamwork are constantly extolled, and sometimes that's fun, but too much of that, and I feel hollow. I do truly believe that the individual should count for something, and it always bothered me that "individualism" was a dirty word in college.

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