In the 1800’s cities were growing; even smaller towns and villages were getting bigger. In the north especially there was much more industry, which meant more factories, more houses, and more people all in one place. This came with upsides like cheap goods and downsides like bad sanitation and working conditions.
There were many reactions to the changes happening to towns and cities. Some of those reactions we will read about later. But there was at least one man whose response was to go on walks. He was a writer, philosopher, and a thinker. Later on people would label him a transcendentalist because he believed that through nature and natural living people could transcend (rise above) their circumstances; maybe even learn something about God and the way the universe worked. He wrote about politics and what it meant to be a citizen of a country and the world. New train tracks that routed noisy trains close to his house angered him and he wrote about those too. He once left his hometown, wandered out into the woods and built a cabin by a pond, lived there for over a year, and barely saw another person the whole time. And he went for walks.
You know this guy actually (or know of him). Henry David Thoreau was one of America’s first great writers and philosophers. The books and poems he wrote are distinctly American even though he was often writing arguments against what his country was doing. Some people might say there is nothing more American than arguing with the government.
Yesterday I stumbled across an essay of his titled ‘Walking’. It was written in 1845, just as things were getting really industrial in the northern U.S. Thoreau writes about his astonishment about how people can stay inside at their jobs all day. He compares walking to the old idea of medieval knights roaming the country side doing good deeds. Some of it is a little hokey, but some of it seems to ring kind of true.
I want you to read part one of ‘Walking‘ for tomorrow. Concentrate on sections 1 -19. Then (tomorrow) were going to take Thoreau’s advice and go for a walk. We won’t be able to get to any wilderness or walk for four plus hours as we would have, but we at least won’t be sitting inside.
Dress warm (really warm); we’ll go outside regardless of the weather.