Thoreau and Emerson
Most American writers have something in common. It is either they share the same believes, they schooled together, they were a teacher and a student or have the same thoughts. In most cases, young and upcoming writers tend to emulate the older writers since they are more experienced and tackle issues with wisdom. For instance, when we examine closely the works of Emerson and Thoreau, we find that they share some ideas on how they view and tackle issues. They notice same problems in life and come up with almost the same solutions to these problems (Baym 108). This is not because they were born in the same country and attended the same college but it is because they have same beliefs and values of life.
Comparing Thoreau’s “Walden”, the imaginary ideal state and Emerson’s works; Self-Reliance” and “Nature”, we find that most of the ideas that they try to bring to the public are closely related. They both talk about three key issues for a complete and a happy life. These issues are; simplicity or straightforwardness in life, the potential and importance of the soul as well as imagination (Baym 840). Thoreau puts into test the ideas that had earlier been discussed by Emerson in his work “Nature” by coming up with an imaginary state in which people live in harmony and unity. Life is very simple since the needs of the people are catered for by the whole society and none of them lives in poverty. Everyone wakes up to work not for their individual benefits but for the benefit of the whole society. This way, Thoreau realizes that it brings peace not only to the mind but to the soul as well. When people live a simplified life, their souls have the potential to fully realize the beauty of life (Baym 761). At the same time, their minds can think and imagine soberly since their imagining capacity is uplifted and this is all a man needs to completely change his way of living.
The whole essence behind this theory and even the need to prove it lies on the fact that a rationale human is not dependent on other people’s ideas. Both Thoreau and Emerson believe that there are natural forces that make us different from each other therefore our ideas are never the same (Baym 879). And since these forces keep on changing, so are our ideas; human kind is ever looking for solutions and explanations about his life. The resolution to this is that nature is the ultimate key to all the problems facing man kind. Thus when Thoreau lives his people for Walden, he simply wanted to feel how it was like to live in a stress free environment with people who are peaceful. He wanted to experience the true meaning of life. He wanted to take a ride into the ideal world and experience life in its stillness (Baym 914). It is for the same reason that Emerson blames the upcoming generation for not wanting to experience things on their own but they believe in the stories and customs that were told long time ago by their ancestors. He urges the young generation to learn to experience things on their own just as Thoreau did. When he says that his selfishness disappeared and gained clear eyeballs when he stood on the exposed grounds, he is simple trying to imply that one is able to develop deeper and clear thoughts when he is in such a simple setting (Baym 912).
Likewise, Thoreau says that he wants to live an uncomplicated life so that he can enjoy its deep meaning by sucking all the marrow from it. He goes ahead and says that the railroads ride on us instead of us riding on them (Baym 913). This implies that the things we do hoping that they will simplify our lives actually make them even more difficult to pursue. Therefore both Thoreau and Emerson have a feeling that a simply life brings about a happy life with deeper meaning than a complicated life. They also urge people to try living a simple life by coming up with their own new thoughts and not to relay on thoughts that are outdated.
Another thing that these two share some ideas in their works is imagination. They believe that a rationale man is one who is able to imagine and utilize his imagination appropriately. A man who does not imagine renders himself useless because he will not have the ability to transform his life. They believe that imagination can change an individual’s life for the good. They affirm that for one to live a comfortable and an enhanced life, they must learn how to imagine by putting their imagination at work (Baym 744). This is illustrated when Emerson says that he was aware that the work of imagination is to uplift and console the life of human kind. Thoreau on the other hand imagines of wind that that passes through his house saying that it takes him back to the time when had visited a house on the mountain. We find that his imagination is taking him as high as the mountain top (Baym 751). With an open imagination, he alone can see the things that he sees and no one else can see the same things. This is another way of claiming that open imaginations make individuals to think far thus making them capable of building their future, hence to live better lives.
Lastly, these two writers have in common the value or importance of the soul. They believe that the soul is the engine to our lives and we should take good care of it. A reliable soul is the one that is active and bold (Baym 731). Thus to measure the potential of his soul, Thoreau decides to live in Walden so as to extract the true value of it. He goes there so that he can have a close examination thus a clear understanding of his soul. From the experiences he gets, he concludes that the potential of the soul to act accordingly lies on the individuals’ means to simplify life. An active and genuine soul is only found in a still environment. Correspondingly, Emerson shares the same idea in his works. He also affirms that an active soul is a live soul and that the only thing that he values on earth is a soul that is active (Baym 728). He does not believe in a dormant soul thus he feels that everyone should work hard into improving the activity of his/ her soul. He talks of the endless wealth of the soul but pities that the souls of some people are not active and the inactive souls can not reap this wealth. That the soul is capable of doing much more than we can envisage but the sorrowful thing is that very few are bothering to realize the potential of their souls. Thus both Thoreau and Emerson believe in the existence of a soul whose potential is greater than we can think of, given the suitable and conducive environment such as Walden.
It can therefore be concluded that both Thoreau and Emerson have more or less similar ideas in their works. They both have the same goal in life and it can only be accomplished by nature. They want to live in harmony and hope that some day the world will be peaceful and no one will wish to hurt another. Thus after examining the urgency of harmony, they look for means of attaining it and the only solution they come up with is to live a simple life; a life that is not dominated by greed for material things but one that is considerate and cares for the affairs of others; a life that is not selfish but shares the little that one has. This way, people will be living by the forces of nature and not by possessions. The young generations should learn to do things their way and not to base everything on the traditions of our forefathers. And when all this is achieved, the potential of the soul will become to its fullest while the sense of imagination will be uplifted. Therefore a simple life brings about a potential soul and imagination which in turn results into a better life.
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