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Chapter 18. Conclusion 
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Post Chapter 18. Conclusion
Summary

limiting views

exploring the inner world

the laws of one's being

the numbing of tradition and conformity

resourceful ambiguity

the artist of Kouroo

freedom of thoughts

reaching a solid bottom

inner truth

life in the presence of death

http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/transcendenta ... ter18.html
Walden Study Text



Sun Jul 20, 2008 8:41 am
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The last several chapters had tended to highlight Thoreau's observational powers rather than being notably philosophical. Now, deciding to put a period on the book, he was faced with what must have been a daunting challenge in composition. What could he say in this chapter that he had not in the previous 17? He seemed to solve the problem by reaching farther than he had before, pulling out all the stops, speaking "extra vagantly" in a way that strained the limits of the language. He doesn't care if his speech defies understanding by common sense; he wanted to be understood by uncommon sense. Why should we insist on but one interpretation, anyway? Why cannot there be many?
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A saner man would have found himself often enough "in formal opposition" to what are deemed "the most sacred laws of society," through obedience to yet more sacred laws, and so have tested his resolution without going out of his way. It is not for a man to put himself in such an attitude to society, but to maintain himself in whatever attitude he find himself through obedience to the laws of his being, which will never be one of opposition to a just government, if he should chance to meet with such.

One problem, today as then, with following this path is that censure is difficult for most people to take; we want to be essentially in conformance, and may stand apart in harmless ways such as our clothing fashions or musical taste, but we don't want to be marked as abnormal or odd. Society and even Mental Health might be ready to label us if we insist on "obedience to the laws of [our] being."
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18.4 I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one. It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves.

I suppose there were quotidian reasons, as well, for why he left the woods. But he has rarely mentioned such uninteresting and minute details (such as his privy) in the book, so why should he now. It's almost as though he realized the best way to write a classic was to exclude all that chaff and just give us the full grain.
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In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

He tries to put his own stamp on an Eastern type of philosophy, packaging it for his American audience.
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Do not seek so anxiously to be developed, to subject yourself to many influences to be played on; it is all dissipation.

This he might be saying to all of us modern dilletantes, thinking we need to be conversant with so many subjects or skills.

Threre is much, much more that could be said about this climactic chapter. Almost all of it could be quoted.
DWill



Sat Aug 30, 2008 7:58 pm
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DWill wrote:
Threre is much, much more that could be said about this climactic chapter.


There is one last thing I would like to say.

Quote:
In view of the future or possible, we should live quite laxly and
undefined in front, our outlines dim and misty on that side; as our
shadows reveal an insensible perspiration toward the sun. (18.6)


This may be an allusion to the 1835 appearance of Halley's Comet.

There was also the Great Comet of 1843.
Wikipedia says this comet was best viewed in the southern
hemisphere, so it's not clear how impressive it was
in New England. Anyway, comets were a current topic.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Comet_of_1843

There is, however, a further connection between difficult 18.6
and Halley's Comet. Thoreau refers to "Symmes' Hole"
in 18.2. Such a portal unites outer and inner. Sir Edmond Halley
himself advanced a hollow earth theory in 1692.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmond_Halley#Hollow_Earth

http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/dp5/inner2.htm

Tom



Sun Aug 31, 2008 8:22 pm
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On a lighter note . . . I'm glad I wasn't the owner of that table, from which emerged that bug.

;-)



Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:25 am
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