December 6th 2012
Happiness is a word that has been thrown around for centuries. The term means something different to everyone. To Henry David Thoreau it means not being locked down to the rules of society. To be free from social slaughter of word of mouth. Free from taxes that society is forced to pay and why? Because some big shot said so? Thoreau was a man in a natural world, he knew true happiness, he didn’t care about society and class, never felt alone, he believed in an existence far different than we do, John Muir lived a life like Thoreau, and modern society is not capable of living the way he did.
Thoreau is known as one of the first environmentalists. How did he get this title? Well, he interpreted nature in a way that hadn't been done before. For Thoreau, nature isn't just a mirror to man's soul, nor is it celebrated within the confines of a well-ordered landscape or farm, as it is in the pastoral tradition. Thoreau wants wild nature, nature untouched by human hands. As is demonstrated simply through his presence as an observer.
Thoreau represents this wild vision of nature through various lenses – first, with a naturalist's eye for the differences between species, and for the changes in distinctive habitats as they evolve over the seasons. Second, he represents it as a historian, capturing the way that humans have altered the landscape. This includes his own attempts at farming, which is in tension with his respect for native plants. In the end, the nature Thoreau describes is only about a mile away from the center of town, and not in some far-off wilderness. Thoreau wants to remind us that nature is all around us, and there to inspire us to be better than we are.
Thoreau knew true happiness. It's easy to get distracted by Thoreau's sometimes bully-like, preachy moments, but, if he's preaching, he's preaching the joy...