There are readings that are revolutionary and intimate at the same time, destined to remain a point of reference for future generations. Walden. That is life in the woods from Henry David Thoreau is one of them. Today we often talk about sustainable life, but what is its real meaning? And why is it precisely a book from 1854 that reveals it to us?
An autobiographical adventure
“Walden. That is life in the woods “is the autobiographical adventure of the American philosopher, writer and poet Henry David Thoreau, one of the leading exponents of transcendentalism – philosophical and poetic movement of the early nineteenth century – which spread to North America. The work appears intimate and personal precisely because it is, to all intents and purposes, a diary which the writer wrote between 1845 and 1847 in the countryside of Massachusetts, near Concord. It is precisely here that the author decided to spend those years, devoting himself completely to reflection of the relationship between man and nature and looking for a deep relationship with it.
As emerges from its pages, his was an adventure above all spiritual: to find oneself in a society increasingly oriented towards superfluous wealth and not authenticity. But why the woods? Thoreau writes: “I went into the woods because I wanted to live wisely, facing only the essential facts of life, to see if I could not learn how much it had to teach me and not to have to discover on my deathbed that I had not lived. The fact is, I didn’t want to live what wasn’t a life unless absolutely necessary. I wanted to live deeplysucking all the marrow of it, I wanted to live as a stalwart Spartan, to defeat what life was not, mow wide and close to the ground and put life there, in a corner, reduced to its simplest terms. “
In search of a “joyful solitude”
In an increasingly “claustrophobic” society it is really vital and important to seek a space to think and to reflect on one’s existence and one’s relationship with the world. This Thoreau had understood and found the space of him in a log cabin near the shores of the lake Walden. This is where the philosopher experiences one “Joyful solitude”, in total contemplation of nature and meditating for long periods in a serene way. In this book he tells about the achievement of this inner peace away from societyin close contact with the nature and self-fabricating the means of subsistence. An opportunity to reflect in an intimate and isolated way on politics, economics, philosophy and much more.
From these reflections Thoreau draws an important lesson: even in a condition of poverty or absence of material goods, man can find a condition of peace and serenity. Modern life, at that time as today, can generate frustrating social conditions that distance us from authentic life and spirituality. A spirituality that has nothing to do with traditional religiosity, but with a deep inner connection that is realized only when one is in harmony with nature.
Not everyone has the opportunity to have the same experience asauthorbut what he leaves us with his writings goes far beyond the physical experience itself: what really matters, no matter where, is finding your own space, your own magical and safe place in which to be able to enjoy a solitude full of joy. Even today we take for granted how important it is to indulge in one physical and mental space to think and, the most surprising thing, is that it still seems an unusual thing. Difficult to think when, how and if it will become normal but, when possible, take refuge in the woods it can truly be salvation.