My Loon

Now that I’ve completed Walden I’ve come to understand the phrase “the more you learn the less you know”. As I read further into the book, everything I had thought was true was dismissed in the very next chapter. My quest for solidification is comparable to the game Thoreau played with the loon in the chapter “Brute Neighbors”. We both are searching for something, an answer maybe, and follow it closely only to be misled and dropped into another unknown area where we start the process all over again. My specific dilemma is finding Thoreau’s overarching theme. It seems that nature and people cannot, or should not, be separated and that is the loon I will be chasing.

The loon is both natural and poetic. It is a bird with excellent diving skills and a haunting call. Thoreau writes, “I found that it was as well for me to rest on my oars and wait his reappearing as to endeavor to calculate where he would rise; for again and again, when I was straining my eyes over the surface one way, I would suddenly be startled by his unearthly laugh behind me… after an hour he seemed as fresh as ever, dived as willingly, and swam yet farther than at first.” It seems Thoreau’s answer to deception is to sit and wait, for the deciever will reappear again to enjoy his humility. In nature, the predator stalks the prey, calmly waiting for the time to strike. They say predators are at the top of the food chain for a reason. All the power is given to those at the top. Could this also apply to the political problems of Thoreau’s time or even our own today?

The unapologetically lethal are those in charge. They operate business, control economy and hold people’s lives in their hands. Using the passage above, Thoreau’s response is to sit and wait. Perhaps for the fall of the mighty? For the chance to deceive the deceiver? Should we too wait patiently for our problems to disappear and “sw(i)m farther than at first”? Is this a coward’s way of dealing with responsibility? Kathryn Schultz the writer of Pond scum would think so…

When comparing the two articles, I found Purdy’s more persuasive than Schulz’s because of his tone and his evidence. Schulz clearly does not respect Walden or any of Thoreau’s beliefs for that matter, and every sentence she writes is an insult to his character. Perhaps it’s my scientific alter ego, but I find it difficult to side with people who only present one position of an argument and use emotionally based opinions as support. Her assertions felt unreasonably bias, unlike Purdy’s article which provided historical facts to back his claims.

In the shit with Thoreau: A Walden for the Anthropocene provided records of the events going on in Thoreau’s time and elaborated on specific passages in Walden. Purdy’s guide through anthropogenic Walden helped me see the relationship we have with nature today versus in the 1800’s, and how even still we cannot live our lives without the presence of nature. As I continue my search for validity in Walden I will continue thinking about Thoreau’s own struggles and his quest for the loon.


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