An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.
Ohio Chautauqua always brings informative and interesting characters to the stage. A recent performance in Coshocton was no exception as Kevin Radaker, professor of English at Anderson University in Indiana, portrayed Henry David Thoreau, one of the greatest writers of American Literature. Even though Thoreau wrote from 1817-1862, his thoughts still influence and inspire countless people today. The audience sat mesmerized during his lecture…you could have heard a text message beep.
Thoreau was born and raised in Concord, Massachusetts and chose to reside there his entire life. Two sisters and a brother rounded out the Thoreau family where his father ran a pencil factory, and his mother had strong views as an abolitionist. He worked for a while in his father’s pencil factory and as a carpenter, but said he was just so-so at carpentry. However, he did become a devout abolitionist for the rest of his life, following in the footsteps of his mother. He considered himself a writer by profession, a mystic and philosopher.
After graduating from Harvard, Thoreau became friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson, who encouraged him in his writing and introduced him to Transcendentalism, which emphasized the spiritual matters over the physical world. Thoreau felt that every seventh day should be a day of work, while the rest of the week be treated as the Sabbath.
His best know masterpiece, Walden, was written while Thoreau lived for two years in a small cabin at the edge of Walden Pond, not far from Concord, on property owned by Emerson. His daily walks in the woods are best described in his own words: “There is nothing so sanative and so poetic as a walk in the woods and fields.” He compared the value given him by his walks to what others get by going to church. Walden Pond was his greatest adventure.
Even though Thoreau spent most of his live in Concord, he did venture to other places. Cape Cod and Maine helped him picture in words the wrath of the sea, yet capture the vigor and health of Nature. He felt national preserves should be created, not for recreation but re-creation of the wilderness, his main fascination.
He was a great fan of travel, but a slightly different kind than what we might presume. His mystical travel required an inward journey, which is accomplished by using our imagination and intuition. Through these inward journeys, Thoreau came to realize what the ancient Orientals meant by contemplation and forsaking work. Sometimes he loved to sit on his porch for the entire day, while his neighbors scoffed at his poor work ethic.
Perhaps he liked to read some of his favorite books as he sat on the porch for a day. Those would include: The Bible, Hindu’s Mahabharata, and Chinese teachings in Four Books of Confucius. He felt that all these similar teachings should be written side by side for better comparison.
Thoreau encourages his readers to take an inward journey, pointing out that it may very well be more difficult than being on a ship with hundreds of other people crossing the ocean.
What he wrote a hundred and fifty years ago is still relevant today.