Monday, August 06, 2007

At Walden- Part 2



"Walden" was first published in 1854, a 2000 copies print by Ticknor and Fields. It mostly comprises of Thoreau's life in the woods between July 4, 1845 to September 6, 1857. It is considered by some wise men as one of the most influential works in American literature.

To me, "Walden" is a paradise of wisdom, an epitome of Truth in the simplest verses. Well, then let us sojourn again into the wilderness.

ECONOMY

  • In most books, the I, or first person is omitted; in this it will be retained; that, in respect to egotism, is the main difference.

(This shows his characteristic of the importance of self, and the individualistic spirit of being).

In the rest of the chapter Thoreau details out the financial account details of all the experiments that failed and that finally succeeded, and of course the wonderful philosophy about life. In front of the Thoreau's cabin replica at the Walden Pond Conservative in concord is an excerpt from this chapter. The below is a photograph of the same.



WHERE I LIVED, AND WHAT I LIVED FOR

This perhaps is the zenith of the masterpiece. All the underlined philosophy of Thoreau's experiments and the wise learnings must have been put under this chapter alone. Excerpts follow.

The chapter begins with a basic fact, which I myself have personally experienced during my travels through my own country as well as in the far-off soils.
  • At a certain season of our life we are accustomed to consider every spot as the possible site of a house.

Then it reminds of Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" when Thoreau states:

  • I have frequently seen a poet withdraw, having enjoyed the most valuable part of a farm, while the crusty farmer supposed that he had got a few wild apples only. Why, the owner does not know it for many years when a poet has put his farm in rhyme, the most admirable kind of invisible fence, has fairly impounded it, milked it, skimmed it, and got all the cream, and left the farmer only the skimmed milk.

More aphorisms follow:

  • I have no doubt that time discriminates between the good and the bad; and when at last I shall plant, I shall be less likely to be disappointed.
  • As long as possible live free and uncommitted. (Again, the foremost of the three principles of my own life, derived from Thoreau).
  • The morning wind forever blows, the poem of creation is uninterrupted; but few are the ears that hear it. Olympus is but the outside of the earth every where.

And then there are references to the Hindu texts (Hindoo as Thoreau would spell it), which being a born Hindu, I have had to shamelessly learn from Thoreau, who lived about 8000 miles from my land.

  • The Harivansa says, " An abode without birds is like a meat without seasoning".

  • "There are none happy in the world but beings who enjoy freely a vast horizon" - said Damodara, when his herds required new and larger pastures.

  • The Vedas say, "All intelligences awake with the morining."

  • I have read in a Hindoo book, that "There was a king's son, who, being expelled in infancy from his native city, was brought up by a forester, and growing up to the maturity in that state, imagined himself to belong to the barbarous race with which he lived. One of his father's ministers having discovered him, revealed to him what he was, and the misconception of his character was removed, and he knew himself to be a prince. So soul", continues the Hindoo philosopher, "from the circumstances in which it is placed, mistakes its own character, until the truth is revealed to it by some holy teacher, and then it knows itself to be Brahme".

There are several such references to Hindoo texts, the Vedas and other scriptures from the breadth of the book.

I, myself, am not a morning person, yet in some occasions, when I have the glimpse of the morning sky even before the sun begins to rise, the following lines do truly explain the exhilerating feeling I get:

  • The morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour.


To sum up, his basic point of living at Walden:

  • 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.






One more personal favorite and every time I see that fad on T-Shirts that says "I was born intelligent. Education ruined me", I am tempted to quote to the person wearing that, Thoreau said:

  • I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born. The intellect is a cleaver; it discerns and rifts its way into the secret of things.
READING
  • A written word is the choicest of relics.

  • The symbol of an ancient man's thought becomes a modern man's speech.

  • It is not all books that are as dull as their readers.

  • It is time that villages were universities, and their elder inhabitants the fellows of universities, with leisure- if they are indeed so well off- to pursue liberal studies the rest of their lives.

  • If it is necessary, omit one bridge over the river, go round a little there, and throw one arch at least over the darker gulf of ignorance which surrounds us.
Well here again, I believe there is so much of thought involved and like me, I believe the readers would really appreciate, what I offer to them now and in the next part of this series... SOLITUDE.

-Siddartha Pamulaparty.
August 06, 2007.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

At Walden Part-1


It could perhaps fit for this account to be called "On Walden" too, however, since I want to emphasize the joy I derived, when my dream came true, when I visited Walden in the New England spring this year (2007), which had prompted me to call it "At Walden". As people who know me, hopefully do agree that I am usually a modest person, I do admit here that this essay of mine, is not to exercise efforts to evaluate the genius of Thoreau, nor to defend against many accomplished gentlemen and women of great minds who did not accept Thoreau in the first place. It is my humble attempt to offer to my readers, the influence and inspiration of Thoreau in my life, which is of late been of the sorts of "quite desperation", while I struggle to learn what it has to offer.

Ever since I first read the account of Henry David Thoreau's life in my High School English Course, I felt fascinated about the Walden Pond and the 19th Century New England. What attracted most is the idea of living independently in woods, in a cabin built by your own hands!! It is more like an adventure, like the Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss or the classic Treasure Island by Stevenson or more recently like Tom Hanks' motion picture (based on a true story, I heard) 'Castaway'. And I always had this dream of living in solitude with lots of books in my wooden cabin.

After a long time, I bought the "Walden and Other Writings by Henry David Thoreau" published by the Bantam Classics series (March 1981 edition, Edited by Joseph Wood Krutch) on the 27th day of September, 2003 in a bookstore in Spencer's Plaza, Chennai. I started reading the random chapters Walden and the other essays.

The essay on "Life Without Principle", was one of the first I completed from the book. I am quoting some of the beautiful lines from this essay that I had underlined in my copy of the book for readers of my blog might enjoy them the same way I did and have been since these four odd years. Where I could, I will try and put my thoughts and feelings relevant to these influential words of Thoreau.

LIFE WITHOUT PRINCIPLE

I think that there is nothing, not even crime, more opposed to poetry, to philosophy, ay, to life itself, than this incessant business.

My interpretation of this lines may differ from those who might be surprised at the statement and find it too hard to accept, that the importance of the businesses of people which ought to have the involvement of the art, wisdom and compassion that the poetry, phiolosophy and life offer to us in that order, are being neglected. And moreover the next statement explains that things such as business, politics and the daily routine will never be of higher significance, if not equal to the finer aspects of life.

Those things which now most engage the attention of men, as politics and the daily routine, are, it is true, vital functions of human society, but should be unconsciously performed, like the corresponding functions of the physical body.

Perhaps, the transcendatalistic nature of Thoreau is quite evident with the statement above, that he separates the mind, may be more appropriately the soul, from the physical body.

I would like to quickly go on to that part of the book, where Mr. Krutch and his team had compiled excerpts from Thoreau's Journal which was originally published in Emerson's The Dial.

That aim in the life is highest which requires the highest and finest discipline. How much, what infinite leisure it requires, as of a life-time, to appreciate a single phenomenon!

The profoundness of this one is obvious. It is not that Thoreau did not give us the humour side of him. For instance:

There are some things which God may afford to smile at; man cannot.

Indeed, it is equally profound as the earlier, but I like this better, because it brings a smile onto your lips, at least for the instance, no matter what kind of situation you are in.

Then there comes may be the world's most influential literature of the times that followed Thoreau, the CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE. The great Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, leaders who have led millions of people, have been deeply influenced by this single essay from the wisdom of Thoreau. Here go a few underlined phrases from this essay, which I do not think I have enough courage or wisdom to provide my own comments. This is not a dogma, that my faith in Thoreau's words are like that of a religion, but it is easy to comprehend that the simplicity of these words shout the most shrilling echo of Truth in my ears.

That government is best which governs least; That governement is best which governs not at all.

The only oblligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. (This infact is one of the principles of my life I embraced from Thoreau)

There are numerous such moments when I journeyed through these pages of the book, where filled with deep contemplation I have sensed inside myself, something beyond which was otherwise the obvious.

I have completed reading the following chapters of Walden:

'Complimental Verses', 'Where I lived, and what I lived for', 'Reading', 'Solitude', 'Higher Laws'.

Most of the time I keep re-reading the same chapters and the condition of my book, wear-and-tear shows how much I used it.

Before I get into the details of my actual trip to the Walden at Concord, MA, I would like to pause here, like what I usually do during when I read books, to ensure my thoughts consume the depth of what I gained so far. In the next part, I will try and explain more of my experience of being at Walden, the Pond and at the same time like today, quote the wonderful phrases from Walden the book.

-Siddartha Pamulaparty

August, 6 2007.

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Ammamma--my granny



I have always shared a warm and loving relationship with my grandmother. In fact, I think she had made me feel special and liked me more than her other grandchildren.Perhaps, this is because I am the only boy among all her grandchildren, in her proximity. She used to stay very often with us in Hyderabad earlier and also in Warangal after we moved there. Although I have many experiences with her during my childhood I would like to put some things I am really fond of. During my 2nd grade and 3rd grades in school, I used to make excuses like stomach-ache or head-ache in order to avoid going to school. And when I succeeded in convincing my mom, I used to stay home along with my granny. After an hour after lunch each day, I used to adjust the clock's pointers so that the time showed 3.00pm which was our tea-time. I used to wake her up and ask her to make tea as it was our tea time. She used to get up and make the tea and later on when she came to know that I was playing with the clock, she used to laugh away. She was so patient and was never angry with me.I love to eat when she cooks food. In fact, my most favorite dish of all time is the "Shanigapindi Billala Kura and Billala Antupulusu" that she cooks so well. My mom and aunts also cook it, but they don't match the standards that she has set. I had and still have a really great relationship with her. Only now that I don't get enough time to spend with her.I love her folk songs, her anecdotes, her own childhood stories of encountering ghosts in Bollikunta. Everything that she used to narrate was really fascinating. I had never been to a village all my life but, when I recollect her experiences that she shared with me, I feel a part of me grew up in the country-side too. My personal experiences and observations with my grandmother say that, she is a caring, loving granny to me and a shrewd, strong, venerable and dignified woman to the world she lived in.I will always cherish the moments I had spent with her during my childhood even as I continue to see and listen more of her now.

-Siddartha Pamulaparty

2006.

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