On Worthwhile Experiences, Walden, and Life
(This is a continuation of yesterday’s post This Blog Post was Written First on Paper.)
Alright, now I’ve been released from my technology restrictions for over 24 hours. After I got back from class yesterday, you can bet that the first thing I did was to turn on my laptop to glory in the wonders of the internet. Or, you know, I thought I would be glorying in them. Really everything just went back to normal. I was reminded that whenever you find yourself deprived of something, your longing for it tends to increase your anticipation beyond the satisfaction that you will actually get from it when it is restored.
But I was really hoping to have something more to say about this whole experience. It was set up with the obvious expectation that we would learn some great Lesson from it or at least experience some great Discovery. So, yeah, I was looking for it. I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I tend to want to get something out of everything I do, and if I don’t I feel somehow cheated.
Have you ever had an experience like that? Maybe you went to see a movie and were completely unmoved while everyone around you was bawling their eyes out. Maybe you traveled a long way to see something, only to say “That’s it?”. Or maybe you went on a strict diet and didn’t lose a single pound. It’s a special kind of disappointment, isn’t it?
I hate to think of any experience as being wasted because, like Thoreau, I want to get the most out of life. He says, “I wanted to live deep and suck all the marrow out of life.” And don’t we all, when it comes right down to it?
I guess another thing about this is that it’s made me think a lot more about Thoreau than I would have otherwise. Walden was the first book that I picked up specifically for its place on the 1001 list. It really was where my journey started. And you can bet that I wanted to get something out of reading it. As I’ve mentioned before, it took me a long time to read. I noted that it seemed to be one of those books that you need to take your time with, and that I could see the possibility that if I returned to it someday I might like it a lot more.
That was almost two years ago, but I still feel the same way. As I reread sections of it this week, I found myself again experiencing the sense that this book has something deep to offer for the person who is willing to look long and hard for it. It seems I might be a bit closer, but it still eludes me. While I was reading, it occurred to me that perhaps the best way to read this book is not to simply read it, but to engage with it. To have a dialogue with Thoreau if you will, taking his points and expanding upon them through the lens of your own life and experiences. I would be interested to see if anybody else has done that, and maybe I will someday after I’ve seen a little more of life.