Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Reading For Content

(Hey look, a blog post that isn't a PBP entry!)

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Chapter one—Economy (I think)

My friend often suggests things we should do. “Let’s teach ourselves basic chemistry!” was a memorable one (I was glad when that one fell by the wayside), “Let’s learn Spanish!” (I’m still hoping we pursue that one), “Let’s teach ourselves to play guitar!” (Still working on that one!), and several others I can’t remember now. Sometimes I just smile, nod, and wait for the spell to pass and other times I jump on board. The enthusiasm varies by suggestion.

Most recently, my friend suggested out of nowhere that we should start reading the classics. I said ‘sure’ without hesitation. Walden was on her list and since it was available free, we agreed to start with that.

Now, my friend and I share the same problem, lack of follow-through coupled with a pair of bad motivators (pardon the Star Wars reference). But in our defense, life gets in the way often.

I need to get her to spell out the list for me so I have an idea of what fresh hell (*coughs*) I mean great adventure is in store for me. When I get the list I’ll add it here so I can mark off the ones we make it through.

The first book, as I mentioned above, is Walden by Henry David Thoreau. I have to say that they were some overly wordy bastards back in the mid-1800s. We decided on one chapter a week and a chat about what we’ve read on Sunday. 

After a bit I realized that I absolutely hated slogging through this book, but I wanted to make it through so I looked on YouTube and found several videos of it being read. Turning it on while I’m doing dishes or cooking is working out for me (and the chores keep me awake (*grins*)

At first I kept thinking HDT was a major ass. His attitudes on the elderly and farming really ticked me off. He says at one point that in all his thirty years he has never encountered an older person that had one worthwhile thing to say to him or knowledge worth passing on.  What. An. Ass. Seriously. Ugh. But I stuck with it. Later he implies that a farmer is a slave to his fields and wastes his life behind the plow. Again...Grrrrr.
I decided rather early on that HDT must have been his time period’s version of a know-it-all Hipster and I tried to keep that in mind as he went on and on (and ON) about everything from food, man’s enslavement to fashion, and the various merits of housing between the civilized white man and the savage.

Occasionally though, I started hearing some real gems of wisdom.  There were sentences of real beauty and deep meaning that went beyond (what sounded to me like) self-important navel gazing.

The short passage about the hound, the bay horse, and the dove captured my imagination enough that I had to pause the audio and spend time thinking about the symbolism and what it could have meant to him and what it meant to me. It prompted me to get online and search out other people’s opinions about the meaning. It made me think.  Just that alone makes this endeavor a success. Anything that inspires learning is a good thing.

I still think he’s a whiny, self-important hipster type, but I’m going to keep slogging through and see what other gems I find among the million extra words he left laying about. Perhaps by the end of the book if not this incredibly long chapter I'll change my mind and form a new opinion about it.

Stay Tuned!

1 comment:

  1. I recall slogging thru "Walden" and feeling Thoreau was the 'emo' youth of his age…but that was back before the term 'emo' was in vogue, of course. I believe the term I used was "callow assed youth"! The thing about the "classics" that wore me out on them? They espouse things we are told ARE classic -- thus "timeless" when quite a lot of it is patriarchal crap, misogynistic and often religious and dismissive. Don't even get me started on "Portrait of a Lady" or "Anna Karenina"….I tend to wax prolific AND profane, lol!