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Basic Necessities

Economy Essay

A Start to Walden    


Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they are born?”-Thoreau


            It’s the second week of Senior Spring for Fenn’s 9th grade class and I for one was fully expecting to cruise a little into graduation, until I read Thoreau’s piece on Economy. Frankly, this first exposure to Thoreau has left me thinking he is rather confusing because he contradicts his own advice. He claims to lead a simple life and “require(s) of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life” and yet just look at his use of vocabulary – obtrude, impertinent, resignation, belies – could his writing being any less simple? He does apologize, although not for his vocabulary, but for writing so much about himself. No excuse needed here, because after reading this passage ten times (thanks!), he does have valuable insight on both where man should focus his work in life as well as the opportunity for man to make a change at any point in how he lives his life.           

           If this were a boxing match, Thoreau comes out of the corner strong in round one with several paragraphs pointing out the bad choices men make in spending their lives working towards the wrong goals. According to Thoreau, it is a “misfortune” to inherit money and professions. Instead he believes men make much better choices for how they will spend their days working, if they come from nothing and find their own way of making money. “Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they are called to labor in.” Thoreau believes it is important to figure out for yourself where you would like to spend your time working and not have it handed to you because working towards a career is easier than trying to get rid of one that is given to you. Thoreau believes “men labor under mistake”. He points out that men are employed by seeming fate and out of necessity, to collect “treasures which moth and rust and will corrupt and thieves break through and steal.” Thoreau says these men, so focused on getting things, miss out on “finer fruits that cannot be plucked from them.” This is his way of saying focus on the simple experiences and the “true necessaries", because when life is over you can only take the memories and not the “things.” But, what is man to do, after reading Thoreau’s warning, if he isn’t living in accordance with Thoreau’s lessons?

              Luckily, according to Thoreau, men who have not lived by Thoreau’s lessons still have hope because man can make changes to the way he is leading his life at any point in his life. “Alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to give up our prejudices.” Each morning the sun rises and so what Thoreau is saying is that each morning man has a chance for a new beginning or “clear” slate. I believe that to be true. Thoreau also writes that man has to come up with what he believes to be true. “No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof.” Thoreau was pretty specific about how man should live his life for experiences not material things. However, here Thoreau gives man permission to develop his own understandings and path. I’m guessing Thoreau is saying make your own path and come to your own conclusions, but keep it simple.

            Ironically, as I drove to soccer practice tonight, I passed by Walden Pond, Thoreau’s temporary home. I developed a sudden dislike of Walden Pond. But, Moby Dick was challenging and we got through it, so I’m hopeful Thoreau’s writing will begin to get easier.
































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