Did you read a lot about transcendentalism in high school? I did. Thoreau, Emerson, Krakauer’s Chris McCandless story, but why? Was it a warning about living a life of “quiet desperation,” or were all of these trascendentalists, in fact, also men leading lives of quiet desperation, even in their silent reverie?
Every time get away from city life I think of Walden and how I stopped reading it when he started sweeping his dirt floor (which isn’t too far into the book, by the way). The past few days I have been in the mountains of Virginia with one of my best friends from high school. Her family has a house here and the landscape is gorgeous, so is the house (shout out to Peggy!).
Driving up to her house is a pleasant journey, and just before your turn up the long and winding road to her house, theres a man who sits on a wooden chair behind his pickup truck, mushing around chewing tobacco in his mouth. If you check, he’s probably still there. He’s always there. The only thing that he switches up is the positioning of the chair looking out on the road.
The first day I said to my friend,
“Is that man just sitting there?! Watching cars?!”
“Yeah, he’s watching the day go by. People do that.”
I was baffled, and she was humored by the fact that this baffled me. Now that I think about it, it says something about where we were raised. This man was clearly raised in a relaxed environment where he was encouraged to appreciate everything around him, whereas I was raised in a high pressure environment in which if you aren’t doing something, then you’re not doing anything.
It’s odd. I used to despise Henry David Thoreau for sweeping his dirt floor. Why would he do that? It’s dirt! No matter how you push it around with a broom, it will always be dirt. But, maybe, to him, it was peaceful. Perhaps the bristles of his broom made a gentle whoosh as the dirt was swept back and forth. Who knows?
What I’m trying to say is that everything is relative to your condition. Men struggle no matter where they are, with philosophy and self betterment, and even their various dirt floors. Finding a break from quiet desperation is a pretty universal goal.