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Jane Sitter

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Transcript of Thoreau

Background 'Walden': Transcendentalism and
Hindu influences Emerson’s 'Self Reliance' against
Thoreau’s 'Walden' Discussion questions: Quote matching game: Thoreau on Government That government is best which governs least... or not at all. The Birth of Thoreau Thoreau - Walden and Resistance to Civil Government David What is an unjust law?

Can you agree upon a specific example of an unjust law?

Is breaking the law ever justified?

How would Thoreau have answered these questions? Jane, Tom, David, Bailey The History of Thoreau Jane Bailey Transcendentalism Definition from OED:

"an idealistic philosophical and social movement that developed in New England around 1836 in reaction to rationalism. Influenced by romanticism, Platonism, and Kantian philosophy, it taught that divinity pervades all nature and humanity, and its members held progressive views on feminism and communal living. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were central figures." Activist slavery, government, war
Influenced many including Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi "To American Friends, You have given me a teacher in Thoreau, who furnished me through his essay on the "Duty of Civil Disobedience" scientific confirmation of what I was doing in South Africa."
-Gandhi No violence
Thinking "practically" and speak up
Often addressed readers through rhetorical questions
Men should serve their state with their "consciences" - treated as enemies of the State
If demands of a government/society are contrary to one's conscience, it is the individual's duty to reject them Upholding Moral Law as Opposed to Social Law Individual's duty to follow moral laws
Divides: state, churches, family, individual
Unjust Laws exist: What to do?
Obey? Amend?
"The remedy would be worse than the evil."
That is the government's fault!
Taxes Peaceful Revolution Don't pay taxes. How is this peaceful?
ONE night in jail
Liberating, not confining
State only confronts one's physical senses, not his intellectual or moral senses
"I quietly declare war with the State..."
"Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine."
State must recognize the individual as a higher and independent power
Progress for the individual: absolute to a limited monarchy to a democracy Government Wants "better" not eradication
An "expedient" but sometimes an "inexpedient"
Hinders trade and commerce
Achievements come through the character of the American people
"wooden gun" War Pointless
"Executive's war"
Soldiers - dehumanized by those in power
Legislators and office-holders - serve the devil or God? Voting "gaming"
Majorities vs. minorities
only pass if the majority is indifferent
"Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it" "Action from Principle" Living in the Now

There is no more deviation in the moral standard than in the standard
of height or bulk. No greater men are now than ever were. A singular
equality may be observed between the great men of the first and of
the last ages; nor can all the science, art, religion and philosophy of the
nineteenth century avail to educate greater men than Plutarch’s heroes,
three or four and twenty centuries ago. (Emerson, Norton 285)

“Men esteem truth remote, in the outskirts of the system, behind the
farthest star, before Adam and after the last man. In eternity there is
indeed something true and sublime. But all these times and places and
occasions are now and here. God himself culminates in the present
moment, and will never be more divine in the lapse of all the ages”
(Thoreau, Norton 1032) Extreme Individualism

“Misunderstood! It is a right fool’s word. Is it so bad then to be
misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus,
and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo and Newton, and every pure
and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood”
(Emerson, Norton 274)

The millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million
is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred
millions to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive. I have never
yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the
face?”(Thoreau, Norton 1028) Regarding the Study of the Classics
“That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. No man yet
knows what it is, nor can, till that person has exhibited it. Where is the master
who could have taught Shakespeare? Where is the master who could have
instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? Every great man is
an unique. The Scipionism of Scipio is precisely that part he could not borrow.
If any body will tell me whom the great man imitates in the original crisis when
he performs a great act, I will tell him who else than himself can teach him.
Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare. Do that which is
assigned thee, and thou canst not hope too much or dare too much. (Emerson,
Norton 284)

“Men sometimes speak as if the study of the classics would at length make way
for more modern and practical studies; but the adventurous student will always
study classics, in whatever language they may be written and however ancient
they may be. For what are the classics but the noblest recorded thoughts of
man?” (Thoreau, Norton 1034) Proper education from Europe

“The Soul is no traveler: the wise man stays at home with the soul,
and when his necessities, his duties, on any occasion call him from
his house, or into foreign lands, he is at home still, and is not gadding
abroad from himself, and shall make men sensible by the expression of
his countenance, that he goes the missionary of wisdom and virtue, and
visits cities and men like a sovereign, and not like an interloper or a valet”
(Emerson, Norton 283)

“Shall the world be confined to one Paris or one Oxford forever? Cannot
students be boarded here and get a liberal education under the skies of
Concord?”(Thoreau, Norton 1038) Technology The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet. He is
supported on crutches but loses so much support of muscle. He has got
a fine Geneva watch, but has lost the skill to tell the hour by the sun”
(Emerson, Norton 284)

“We boast to belong to the nineteenth century and are making the most
rapid strides of any nation. But consider how little this village does for its
own culture” (Thoreau, Norton 1038) Isolation

“Isolation must precede true society. I like the silent church before the
service begins, better than any preaching. How far off, how cool, how
chaste the persons look, begirt each one with a precinct or sanctuary. So
let us always sit” (Emerson, Norton 279)

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only
the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach,
and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived” Thoreau,
Norton 1028) Learning The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet. He is
supported on crutches but loses so much support of muscle. He has got
a fine Geneva watch, but has lost the skill to tell the hour by the sun”
(Emerson, Norton 284)

“We boast to belong to the nineteenth century and are making the most
rapid strides of any nation. But consider how little this village does for its own culture”
(Thoreau, Norton 1038) Simplicity

Thus all concentrates; let us not rove, let us sit at home with the cause.
Let us stun and astonish the intruding rabble of men and books and
institutions by a simple declaration of the divine fact. Bid them take the
shoes from off their feet, for God is here within. Let our simplicity judge
them, and our docility to our own law demonstrate the poverty of nature
and fortune beside our native riches” (Emerson, Norton 279)

“Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to
count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten
toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your
affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a
million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail”
(Thoreau, Norton 1029) Definition continued... From DePaul University:

"what Transcendentalism is ("Transcendentalism . . . is Idealism; Idealism as it appears in 1842") but even more emphatically what it is not: "there is no such thing as a Transcendental party."

-Emerson in "The Transcendentalist" Common Beliefs and Principles:
Idealism, Optimism, Pantheism Hinduism and Transcendentalism "They are actually responding to the generosity that bore them into a world fecund with life and possibility ... worshipers accept their status as beings inferior to and dependent upon the divine. An element of tension arises because the logic of puja and prasada seems to accord all humans an equal status with respect to God, yet exclusionary rules have sometimes been sanctified rather than challenged by prasada-based ritual." Transcendentalism as found in 'Walden' - 'Where I lived' "Though the view from my door was still more contracted, I did not feel crowded or confined in the least. There was pasture enough for my imagination... "There are none happy in the world but beings who enjoy freely a vast horizon," - said Damodara," (Norton - Thoreau, 1027) Hinduism and Transcendentalism Encyclopedia Brittanica

Five tensile strands:
doctrine, practice, society, story, and devotion. On 'Practice' On 'Society' Consider Indian caste system On 'Story' "...these narratives serve to articulate tensions connected with righteous behaviour and social inequities." On 'doctrine' "The first of the five strands of Hinduism is doctrine, as expressed in a vast textual tradition anchored to the Veda (“Knowledge”), the oldest core of Hindu religious utterance... Here several characteristic tensions appear. One concerns the relationship between the divine and the world. Another tension concerns the disparity between the world-preserving ideal of dharma and that of moksha (release from an inherently flawed world)." On 'devotion' "Devotional poems attributed to these inspired figures, who represent both genders and all social classes, have elaborated a store of images and moods to which access can be had in a score of languages." "With its central affirmation that religious faith is more fundamental than rigidities of practice or doctrine, bhakti provides a common challenge to other aspects of Hindu life." "Both place and time were changed..." (1027) "The soul of a man, or its organs rather, are invigorated each day, and his Genius tries again what noble life it can make." (1028) "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately..." (1028) Hinduism references from 'Walden' "There are none happy in the world but beings who enjoy freely a vast horizon," - said Damodara," (1027). "The Vedas say 'All intelligences awake with the morning,' (1028). "'So soul,' continues the Hindoo philosopher, 'from circumstances in which it is placed, mistakes its own character until the truth is revealed to it by some holy teacher," (1031) 'Where I lived...' "Our legislators have not yet learned the comparative value of free-trade and of freedom, of union, and of rectitude, to a nation. They have no genius or talent for comparatively humble questions of taxation and finance, commerce and manufactures and agriculture. If we were left solely to the wordy wit of legislators in Congress for our guidance, uncorrected by the seasonable experience and the effectual complaints of the people, America would not long retain her rank among the nations." Transcendentalism in 'Walden' - 'Reading' 'study of the classics,' (1034) "The authority of the government, even such as I am willing to submit to, - for I will cheerfully obey those who know and can do better than I, and in many things even those who neither know nor can do so well, - is still an impure one: to be strictly just, it must have the sanction and consent of the governed." "...when a sixth of the population of a nation which has undertaken to be the refuge of liberty are slaves, and a whole country is unjustly overrun and conquered by a foreign army, and subjected to military law, I think that it is not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize." "the Vaticans shall be filled with Vedas and Zendavestas and Bibles, with Homers and Dantes and Shakespears, and all the centuries to come shall have successively deposited their trophies in the forum of the world. By such a pile we may hope to scale heaven at last," (1035) -“As travelers go around the world and report natural objects and phenomena, so let another stay at home and report the phenomena of his own life.” -1851
-Known to “never amount to anything”
-His upbringing wasn't as basic as the rest
-Brilliant at age ten
-His education began strong, but slowed down to teaching after Harvard "I do not wish to flatter my townsmen, nor to be flattered by them, for that will not advance either of us," (1038). "A nobleman of cultivated taste..." (1039) "Today a reader, tomorrow a leader." "If you have knowledge,
let others light their candles in it." With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — 'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? -His very important friendship
-The New England Transcendentalists
-His Journal Writing more than two million words
-Thoreau's first published work was in the Dial
-"The Conservative and the Reformer"
-Walden as his "experiment"
-Thoreau committing crime="The Resistance to Civil Government"
-Thoreau as an Abolitionist
-Published after death
-The people he inspired Other important influences: Confucianism

Middle Eastern religions and writings - Zoroastrianism

Greek and Roman mythology "As travelers go around the world and report natural objects and phenomena, so let another stay at home and report phenomena of his own life."
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