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Thoreau by the Lake

  People like Thoreau are heresies of human beings. Only their heresies show their genius. Just like Van Gogh, his extreme actions are difficult to imitate by others, but they will be regarded as the supreme by future generations.
  In the United States, Thoreau (1817-1862) is regarded as a classical writer and one of the founders of American literature. His contemporaries included Hawthorne, Longfellow, Melville, Whitman, and Emerson who crossed the literary and ideological circles. Thoreau, Hawthorne and Emerson were all Massachusetts natives, Thoreau was born in Concord, Hawthorne was born in Salem, Emerson was born in Boston, and moved to Concord in 1836. In the era of inconvenient transportation, geographical proximity is crucial to the communication and mutual influence among writers. During his studies at Harvard University, Thoreau was able to get close to Emerson, and often attended the literati gatherings of Emerson’s house. Influenced by his transcendental views, he opposed authority and advocated the absolute freedom of individuality; he advocated intuition and believed that people could transcend Sense and reason know the truth directly. Emerson also liked this young man, and wrote to the president of Harvard to recommend Thoreau for a scholarship. After graduating in 1837, Thoreau taught at Concord College with his brother John, falling in love and falling out of love; sailing for two weeks with John on the Concord and Merrimack rivers in a self-built boat; writing articles for The Sundial; Started writing a diary… The college was closed in 1841 due to John’s ill health, and Thoreau never did a regular job since then. For the next two years, he lived with the Emersons, where he read Emerson’s extensive library while helping with chores and tending the garden.
  On New Year’s Day 1842, John accidentally cut his hand with a razor, contracted tetanus, and died ten days later in Thoreau’s arms. Thoreau was unhappy throughout the spring. In the summer, he met Hawthorne. Hawthorne applauded his “Natural History of Massachusetts” published in The Sundial. He sold Hawthorne his own boat for seven dollars and taught Hawthorne how to row. In Hawthorne’s eyes, he was a “young man with most of his raw nature…and his manners, though polite, were always a little vulgar and country wild”. In winter, he skated with Hawthorne and Emerson. He gradually emerged from the shadows.
  In the spring of 1845, he was determined to carry out the long-awaited life experiment – after obtaining Emerson’s consent, he set out to build a wooden house on the woodland belonging to Emerson on the shore of Walden Pond not far from the village and town, and in July Moved into a new home on the 4th and lived here alone for 26 months, basically living a self-sufficient life. He cultivated the land by himself, chopped wood and chopped wood for the fireplace, cooked by himself, exchanged the beans he produced for the necessary daily necessities, and also helped others. He pursued a life of “working only one day a week and having six free days”. He used the free time to talk with friends, attend literati gatherings, and spend most of his time observing nature, meditating, reading and writing. Among his accomplishments in seclusion were the completion of his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, most of his second book, Walden, and an extensive diary, as well as writing for the magazine. Articles, speeches written for speeches, etc., totaling more than one million words.
  While living in the lakeside cabin, he was arrested for refusing to pay unreasonable poll tax for many years. Although he was released the next day by his aunt paying the tax on his behalf, it was very exciting to him. A few years later, he published an article entitled “Resistance to the Government” article. When this article was compiled into a collection of essays, it was renamed “On the Right of Civil Disobedience”, which had an immeasurable impact on later generations, such as Gandhi’s “non-cooperation movement” and Tolstoy’s “Do not fight against evil”. Etc., the spirit of which is derived from this article. This is something Thoreau could not have imagined before his death.
  After leaving the lakeside cabin, except for occasional survey work, he basically lived the life of a freelance writer. Traveling, reading, taking notes, and writing were the main contents. He likes mathematics and has a specialty in measurement. He developed a habit of measuring the size and distance of objects of interest, such as the size of trees, the depth and width of ponds and rivers, the height of mountains, etc.
  From 1855 onwards, he began to feel unwell and his legs were weak. Despite active treatment, he never recovered. He died of tuberculosis in 1862 at the age of forty-five. Still muttering about “elk” and “Indians” during his deathbed…
  Friends have many records of his actions and personality. He gave up too many things in his life: no career; no marriage; living alone; no church attendance; no elections; refusal to pay taxes to the government; no meat, no alcohol, and never smoking. In life he had no need to resist temptation – he had no taste for fine things, fine houses, clothes, food, he didn’t care. When asked at the dinner table what he likes to eat, he replies: “The bowl closest to me.” He can sleep beside the railroad without being woken up—he thinks instinctively knows what sounds are noteworthy , what sound should be ignored.
  But in other respects, he was as thin as a hair. It is said that he found a flower by the pond, and after careful observation, he concluded that it had been blooming for five days. He had a diary in his breast pocket with the names of all the plants in the woods that were supposed to bloom on this day; he knew that one night there were ground flies on the river, and the fish were too full to eat them , some fish swelled to death; when a friend was planting trees, he bought a bag of oak seeds, and he said that only a small part of them was good, because it was time-consuming to pick, he thought about it and said, “If you put them all in In the water, the good will sink.” After the experiment, it did; when building the house, he calculated every penny it cost to buy bricks, wood, lime, glass, nails, and even chalk.
  He has a tendency to magnify the moment. Even if it is only a very small object, he has to see the laws of nature in it.
  Thoreau published only two books during his lifetime. One is “A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers,” self-published by him in 1849. The content is a record of his and John’s travels on the two rivers, interspersed with large sections of literary, historical, philosophical and religious discussions. It was obscure and unintelligible. One thousand copies were printed, more than 200 copies were sold, 75 copies were given away, and more than 700 copies were kept in the bookstore warehouse until 1853, all of which were returned to him. He once said mockingly: “There are about 900 books in my house, of which more than 700 are written by myself.” The other is “Walden”, which was published in 1854 and has been popular all over the world for 150 years. , I do not know how many editions have been published.
  As I write these words, or most of them, I live alone in a house in the woods, about a mile from my neighbors. I built the house myself on the shores of Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. I work hard to make ends meet with my own hands. I lived there for two years and two months. Now, I am a rusher of civilized life again.
  This is how the whole book of Walden begins. In the book, Thoreau records the process of getting close to and learning from nature, pursuing a simple life of “simpler, simpler”, hoping that the short life will be perfected by the abundance of thoughts. Much of it is devoted to descriptions of animals and plants, so that some people regard the book as a literature on nature, ignoring its philosophical content. In fact, this is not only a work of lyrical prose, but also a rare philosophical work. Many of Thoreau’s words have now become maxims:
  Most people live in quiet despair, and when they go to the grave, their song has not been sung, and excess wealth can only buy excess; the
  mind is always inexperienced the
  necessities of the soul do not need to be bought with money;
  love is trying to make the dream world a reality;
  live through the seasons, breathe the air, drink the water, taste the fruit, and let yourself feel how they affect you;
  People we can love, we can also hate. And the rest, are of little importance to us; . .
  .
  Emerson said to himself as he left the cemetery after Thoreau’s funeral: “America doesn’t know yet – at least the vast majority of people don’t know how much it has lost A great nation.” His prediction was right. In 1985, “American Heritage” selected “Ten Books That Make Up the American Character”, and “Walden” ranked first. Today, Thoreau has long become an icon of American culture. Americans believe that it was Thoreau who first enlightened them on the idea of ​​being grateful to the earth. So far, this book has more than 200 editions and has been translated into many languages.

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