Saturday, January 13, 2007

Thoreau

"Most men lead lives of quiet desparation"

This is one of HD Thoreau's most famous quotes. But truthfully, I think Thoreau is a jerk.

If you've been following, you will have noticed the air of 'quiet desperation' in the characters I wrote about below. This was intentional, to illustrate a few things that I think Thoreau missed.

First, while many are indeed 'chained to mortgages,' they are simply putting a roof over their and their families' heads. Chained to mortgages is certainly better than homeless, and you'll note that Thoreau's time at Walden was not in a tent. Mortgages are just how we provide housing in our world, so why would Thoreau be so frustrated with that?

Second, the idea that spurred the series, are dreams. What roles do they play in ppl's lives? Why do they matter? All the characters below must have some sort of dreams, but are they realized, and what does that even mean?

Thoreau is deeply loved by social critics, and elements of his thought run through social critique today. What is it about regular ppl's lives that so many of the intelligentsia deride so vigorously? What is it about having a relationship, a house, kids, a job that is not ok?

I don't have an answer to that, but I do know that if we were to query ppl about the lives they are leading, many would not see them in Thoreau's negative light. Many would say their families, their homes, what they've done in their careers are things they are proud of. Indeed these elements are huge symbolic elements in the country music genre (you'll notive the intelligentsia doesn't like country either).

Another aspect is compromise, or even sacrifice. And there is no one living a fully realized life who hasn't had to make compromises. Once you let other ppl into your life, you immediately start compromising, or you don't have relationship. When you bring ppl into the world, the sacrifices and compromises get larger.

It's telling to me that what gives ppl struggle is also what gives life meaning. This seems obvious. Why cannot Thoreau see that being chained to a mortgage is also providing for your children? And if your children are important to you, then those mortgage chains mean something differently - and that meaning would be opaque to Thoreau.

The reader is left deciding what balance between 'dreams' and real life he wants for himself.

I was talking with my father about a certain very famous cyclist. This is a guy who has followed his dreams and wowed the world. He provides wonderful inspiration for millions. Yet, this is a man who has been through a marriage and a half (including Cheryl Crow! who passes that up?) in pursuing his dreams.

Not that I could ride like him, but I rather prefer my family. I like not having to split weekends with my children. I like my little house. And even with its ups and downs, I (mostly) like my career.

So, Thoreau can bite me in the ass!

3 comments:

lib said...

got a few recent photos of people up... thought you'd like to check them out. hope you guys are going well! just started uni over here.

Giustino said...

Thoreau is just a Masshole, Mr. (or is it Dr.?) Public Sociologist. That's how they are. Pay them no mind.

Michael said...

HAHA too true. Did you read the recent NYT (I think) article on the poor girls in snotty schools in MA? Somehow couched as a 'pressures girls face' piece they manage to let all of us Reds know that they know Japanese, do cheerleading, manage to remain effotlessly hot, retain GPAs over 4.0, and must take multi thousand dollar SAT prep courses or face homelessness in a box.

I feel so bad for the girls. Go feminism. (snort)