A Critic's Meta-Review 5/5

Walden or, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862). Published by planksip.

Maybe it’s nothing but a mere coincidence, the product of sheer chance, a melding of fate and free will (if you will) that on this day, the first day of which I have embarked on my new venture of writing these reviews outside in the local playground, ensconced on a resplendent timber plank, surrounded by the falling leaves of autumn, splotched with brown like my cat’s litter box, with my typical soundtrack of Miles Davis and Cyndi Lauper (the girl can sing, and I will vociferously defend this point until any naysayers admit as much) replaced by the sweetly serene serenade of the songbirds that happen to grace the blue-grey skies above me - perhaps it’s ultimately meaningless happenstance that on this glorious day, I have chosen Henry David Thoreau’s magnum opus, Walden, as the subject of my review.

Well, it’s only happenstance if you believe in that sort of thing. I, for one, would never be so bold as to reduce the tracks of destiny to the result of routine decision-making. But I digress...

So what is this thing about anyway? In short, I guess you could say that it is an ode to living free. What does that mean, you might ask? An apt question, no doubt, which I shall now attempt to answer to the best of my ability (here goes nothing!)

To live free, in the truest sense of that word, is to live for oneself. This, of course, does not mean one must be selfish - far from it. To live for oneself, properly understood at least, is to genuinely take the time to appreciate all that this life has to offer - from the sun’s ebullient rays to the shimmer of a golden rain tree. It is to not recoil in fear when faced with a measly pigeon, retreating back to the comfort of confinement in order to avoid dealing with the fact that life is rife with so many opportunities that will likely never be experienced out of some strange loyalty to the prepackaged path being pawned off to you by your friends and family. It is to live an existence unencumbered by the desire to even entertain such a path, opting instead to carve out one’s own path, on one’s own terms, respecting the will of others and never imposing your will upon them while simultaneously not allowing others to impose their will upon you. That is true freedom. And that is the type of approach to life that Thoreau celebrates throughout Walden - most notably, in the section entitled “Where I Lived, And What I Have Lived For”, wherein he recounts the freeing feeling of eschewing legal ownership of a particular property and realizing, instead, that true ownership can never be achieved through such artificial means. Rather than give up on countryside living, Thoreau instead delves even deeper into the realm of the natural, interpreting each alleged setback that happens to befall him as nothing but a pertinent reminder to remain steadfastly committed to a life free from commitments. Sadly, however, it seems as if Thoreau’s self-reliant ethos is but a mere relic of a bygone era - these days, you’re more likely to find an instructional video on how to eat a bowl of Corn Flakes than come across a rogue, renegade wanderer of the woods.

Walden or, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862). Published by planksip.

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