Thoreau lives in nature and simplicity for divinity. This is my briefiest account of his life in Walden.
Walden is natural and the life there is simple. （我想加一句Both “natural” and “simple” refer to few human interferences但又觉得这定义没办法涵盖梭罗的生活）Walden is a field of wildness except a village two miles away and a railroad. Thoreau lives a simple life there in two aspects. Firstly, he does nothing except “keeping his heart beating”. He spends money buying basic tools, builds a shanty on his own, rarely eats met, and has no amusement except walking in the forest. Secondly, he views this world just by his own five senses. In Walden, he often sees and touches, but seldom reads and thinks. He tries to know things directly, without the aids of established concepts, then expresses his own feelings in his own words, as is shown in Walden. In other words, he is not bounded by previous concepts and does not skip the first stage of knowing things. As a result, nature becomes a “perennial sources of our life”, for he always has new feelings in the forest（这句话也好模糊）. His experience of feeling nature lays a solid foundation for his further thinking later on.
From his experience of perceiving nature, Thoreau draws divinity, which consists of vitality and purity in wildness. In Thoreau’s eyes, vitality is embodied in a squirrel searching for food in winter, ice cracking as the sun shines in Spring, and even in a corpse, which means that vitality of life overflows, thus, it can only be killed. These things are done and can only be done by deity, appearing as nature.（这句话很啰嗦） Written doctrines and catechisms are redundant and inferior to those living miracles. At the same time, all the vitality is for one pure aim, that is to grow and become what life and things meant to become. Accordingly, Thoreau thinks that human beings shall keep the purity of themselves, that is to keep our spiritual world away from desires, no matter what forms they appear. To Thoreau, pure things, like water and air, are neither good or bad, but essential. However, impure things like coffee and tea, though may benefit our body, get us stimulated, excited or even intoxicated, thus, they harm the peace and purity of spirit. Thoreau has “rarely for many years used animal food, or tea, or coffee” out of that principle and named it “higher law”. He admits that sometimes we have to eat meat for survival and by instinct are intended to “become a hunter or fisherman”, but he thinks this is a miserable life mode and this instinct is a lower, sensual and animal-like part of human nature. Thus, we shall abandon that low part, and only keep the higher part, even at the cost of health, since it is one of few points that distinguishes us from beasts.
Out of the simple but profound life Thoreau becomes a “new man” out of a new perspective. He excludes all the things unrelated to his necessities and adds more value to what is left by comprehensively observing and reacting to them. Out of his own senses, he views this world with a different perspective from all the previous people and schools.
On the contrary, citizen lives a complex and shallow life, because they ignore their own feelings and take whatever from other people for granted. When citizens perceive an item, various imaginations should have been derived from that experience and rendered to perceivers, but people ignored all of them and only pay attention to external behaviors and results. However, while the experience is different, the external behaviors have long been conceptualized identically. As a result, people are confirmed not by their senses, but by that confirmed their senses meet the established concepts (这句话也很废话). Ask a person what is the feeling of touching ice, they say it is cold, but ask them how cold it is, they do not know. Finally, people altars “logical” with “identical”. It is not our logic but others, even if both things may appear the same. Thus, two problems occur. The first one is that we are not intended or even afraid of trying new things, but preparing and analyzing things circling around it. The more concepts we create, the less helpful they are to solve the problem. “to solve our problems, we have made a much more complex solution.” The second one is that, bit by bit, we blindly follow whatever from others’, rather than think and judge on our own. As a result, the more “developments” we made, the more trivial things we deal with and the further we are away from purity. Like impurity, triviality is one with many forms, some of which we sing high praise of, such as antiques, fashions and doctrines of religion. These things are extracted from some people’s feelings, but are calculated, analyzed and compared seriously by the majority. In Thoreau’s words, we have “reduced a fact of the imagination to be a fact to his understanding”. Despite a new body, people are filled with old feelings, imaginations and thoughts. Consequently, we lost the “divinity of a man”, and become “slave drivers of ourselves”. While our own thoughts are derived from nothing but our own feelings, we are reluctant to go through this process but eager to jump to conclusions. In this commercial society, we are accessed to all the paths except our own’s, and have detailed accounts of everything except a simple and sincere one of ourselves.
Simplicity and sincerity are what Thoreau achieves in Walden, and what he requires of citizens in society. In other words, they are how we should participate in life. Do “not play life” by external and trivial entertainments, or “study it merely” by previously existed knowledge, but “earnestly live it from beginning to end” by our own senses at every moment. What we feel is true, and truth is the expression of that feeling in words. “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” Thoreau does not write this book to those who work in factory and “love labor for its own sake”, for they live a simple life in another way, but to those who blindly follow others’ opinion and “idly complaining the hardness of our lives”. Thoreau gets rid of unnecessary stuffs in Walden, and is rewarded with transcendentalism; we can do the same thing in our own places, and be rewarded by other things.
“Simplify, simplify.” This is the true legacy of Thoreau, rather than that complex compound word. Without a sincere and simple perceive of life. There is no difference between following transcendentalism, naturalism, environmentalism, idealism or Christianity. Simplify our own lives, make our own paths, and achieve our own divinity.