The Thoughts Of Life
Being in quarantine has enabled me to better understand and appreciate the simplicity of life that must have influenced Thoreau when he wrote his thoughts about life for Walden. Without the fast pace and endless distractions of what used to be my life, my days often seem long and indistinguishable now, and this sudden change of pace has given me a lot time to reflect on what I believe and how I want to live my life. As I move into a new phase of my life in high school, this time has enabled me to recognize the importance of being part of a community, to empathize with those less fortunate than me, and to better appreciate all the opportunities that I have been given in life.
More than anything else, I have been reminded of the importance of seeing and connecting with friends and joining with others as part of a community. Being with just myself and my computer every day has impressed upon me how much I enjoy the daily interactions I had with friends and teachers and how easy it is to take those things for granted. Thoreau’s quote about his friends brought this idea home for me: “At length, in the beginning of May, with the help of some of my acquaintances, rather to improve so good an occasion for neighborliness than from any necessity, I set up the frame of my house. No man was ever more honored in the character of his raisers than I.” Thoreau makes clear how much he appreciated having both the companionship and assistance of his friends as he built his home. Although he could have built his home (and his life) on his own, he felt, as I do, that creating something with others offers incredible rewards.
Similarly, reading Walden while being in quarantine has reminded me that life can get lonely and hard, and it is easy to get overwhelmed when you are isolated and stressed. One belief I have become convinced by in the book and in my recent experience is that it is important to help others and be compassionate when they are in a hard situation. Thoreau’s viewpoint that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” has really rung true to me at this point in history because so many people are currently experiencing such incredible stress and hardship as a result of covid-19. Whether the source of that stress is the financial crisis, health problems and worries, the sense of overwhelming social isolation, or the feelings of uncertainty about what is safe and when things will return to normal, life has taken us to a lot dark places lately. This idea of people suffering — and seeing it continually reinforced with endless media images and news stories hour — has instilled in me the importance of reaching out to others to connect and the importance for those who can help to do so. Being part of a community makes us all connected, and we need to be there for each other and be empathetic to what others are experiencing, not just focusing on ourselves.
Finally, I believe strongly that it is important to appreciate all the opportunities hat we have been given in life, especially during a difficult time. So often in life, as soon as we achieve something, we are already on to the next thing to get or comparing ourselves against other people and what they have or achieved. There is a sense in society that nothing is ever good enough, but I think it is important that we need to be grateful for what we have when we have it and to stop comparing ourselves to others. I believe that Thoreau was getting to this idea when he talked about people living beyond their means because they wanted to be like their neighbor: “Most men appear never to have considered what a house is, and are actually though needlessly poor all their lives because they think that they must have such a one as their neighbors have.” The idea that people are always judging themselves negatively against others, and measuring their worth against what others achieve, is destructive. If we are grateful for what we have in life when we have it, we will make better decisions for ourselves and society as a whole.
I would not want to go live for long periods of time away from other people as Thoreau did in Walden. While I would definitely like the chance to get away from things at times — and now in particular — I always appreciate the familiar feeling of coming home after being away and reconnecting with all that is familiar to me. It makes me grateful for all that I have.