The Concept of Nature by Emerson and Thoreau

This summary of nature by Emerson and Thoreau gives a deep analysis of their viewpoints on human nature and meaning of life. Nature has been modernized, nature surrounds us in different ways. We have forgotten what nature really means, what it looks like, and what it feels like. Nature is a very powerful place that we have to take a chance to unlock. The land of bright colorful flowers, trees reaching high, the wind whispering to answer our questions. Nature is there to help us find our spirit to get away from the allegory of the cave we live in. It is not light from a computer screen that we need, but fire, not fancy showers, but thunder and rain, not forced routine but the sand between the toes. With the cave that suppresses nature within us, nature is the source for finding yourself and the search for the meaning of life.

Henry David Thoreau did just that, he went out into nature created a relationship with it to find the meaning of life. Henry David Thoreau was a journalist, poet, and practical philosopher. Thoreau was born on July 12th, 1817 and passed away on May 6th, 1862. Thoreau began his love for writing in the 1840s. He was well known for his naturalist and philosophical writings. His beginning of life in Concord, Massachusetts was very different from the start because he was on a different spectrum of work compared to his parents. Thoreau’s father operated a pencil factory while his mother rented out parts of the family’s home to college students or people who needed to have a room to stay. Thoreau was a very bright kid from the start as life went on he eventually went to Harvard College (it is now Harvard University). He was fascinated with language, he studied Latin and German as well as Greek. It was said at a point Thoreau had to discontinue going to school for some time due to having some type of illness. But in fact, that didn’t stop him, after he rested and fought his illness he did formally graduate college in 1837. However, Thoreau didn’t do anything with himself after he graduated he struggled to find what to do next. He ended up working with his father at the pencil factory for awhile. As time went by Thoreau befriended a writer and a fellow resident Ralph Waldo Emerson. By this Thoreau was introduced to transcendentalism. Which is to teach one’s self the importance of empirical thinking along with spiritual matters over the physical world. Emerson continued to be a mentor to Thoreau teaching him new insights to promote Thoreau’s literacy efforts. His first works were published in The Dial a transcendentalist magazine. This is where Thoreau became more adventurous knowing that he needed to find the spirit to find his relationship with nature to find his simpler life. So by 1845 Thoreau went out to Walden Pond and built himself a small home for himself on the land Emerson owned. He experimented for a while, being at Waldo's Pond he decided to work as little as possible rather than being on a routine. Every once in a while he would go and work in the pencil factory but not much. He felt that doing it was helped him avoid the misery he saw around him. Thoreau once wrote: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

By being out in nature he realized he was able to think clearly to finally feel free. However, he couldn’t totally be out in nature without an issue. Thoreau was put in jail for refusing to pay a poll tax. That experience made him write the best-known essays called Civil Disobedience.” Since the publication of it in 1849 he inspired many to have protest around the world for social resistance. Thoreau’s studies of nature were radical in many ways that suited him honoring him of being called the: “father of environmentalism.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson was a great mentor to Thoreau showing him the power of the quiet land of nature. However, Emerson had a different life compared to his friend Thoreau. Emerson was born in Boston, Massachusetts on May 25, 1803. His father William Emerson was a clergyman. A lot of Emerson’s male ancestors were clergymen it ran in the family. At the age of 18, he had his first job taking over as director of his brother’s school for girls. Emerson began to attend three different schools, Harvard University, Boston Public Latin School, and Harvard Divinity School. He graduated by the year of 1821. He was officially licensed as a minister and ordained to the Unitarian church of 1829. Within the same year, Enerson became happily married to Ellen Tucker. However, two years later his wife became very ill and she died of tuberculosis. This devastated Emerson in a way where his grief became acidic mixing in with his own struggles in life and faith. He soon couldn’t take it anymore and he came up with a conclusion to help his well being of resigning from the clergy. Emerson took a short trip where he met some literary figures. After he returned home he began to lecture on topics pertaining to spiritual experience and ethical living in 1833. A year later he moved to Concord, Massachusetts and found love once again marrying Lydia Jackson in 1835. At the beginning stages of Emerson’s preaching, he often touches on the personal nature of spirituality. This is where he became very good friends with Henry David Thoreau, as well as Margaret Fuller and American Journalist, and also Amos Bronson Alcott and American teacher and philosopher. As Emerson entered the year of 1836 he published essays. These essays distinctly “Nature” which embodied his new love of philosophy. As well as “The American Scholar” that is about a lecture he gave in 1837, that encouraged authors to find their own style of writing than following others. In his essay “Nature” he builds on people’s minds saying:

“Every spirit builds itself a house; and beyond its house a world; and beyond its world, heaven. Know then, that the world exists for you. For you is the phenomenon perfect. What we are, that only can we see. All that Adam had, all that Caesar could, you have and can do. Adam called his house, heaven, and earth; Caesar called his house, Rome; you perhaps call yours, a cobbler’s trade; a hundred acres of plowed land; or a scholar's garret. Yet line for line and point for point, your dominion is as great as theirs, though without fine names. Build, therefore, your own world.”

He infused the thoughts of modern life and old believe to get through people’s minds of how you don’t need everything to find the world exist. That you can find nature in its simplest form that you can build your own world with just the sense of your own living space. Soon Emerson became known as the central figure of his literary and philosophical group and got promoted as the American Transcendentalists. Within his group of writers, they shared key believes that every single individual could transcend, or move beyond the physical world of the senses through deep spiritual experience through intuition and free will. Within this group that Emerson taught, he made is evident that God was not remote and unknowable, he said: “Believers understood God and themselves by looking into their own souls and by feeling their own connection to nature.”

Emerson still became an uprise in the 1840s and was his most productive years. He founded as well as co-edited the literary magazine The Dial, publishing two volumes of his essays in 1841 and 1844. In the year of the 1840s, his life changed even more because his four children were born. He continued to do outstanding essays and speeches to influence nature in the minds of writers.

Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson were very close friends that both taught each other the idealistic thoughts of life through nature. Emerson was a great mentor to Thoreau teaching him the ways of transcendentalism, that being one with nature can help you find your spirit with no distractions, that you can become a better writer if you’re in nature. Thoreau published many of his works in Emerson’s magazine called The Dial. There was a slight difference between these two, Emerson believed that individualism was needed to be found through nature. As in Thoreau’s mind to be happy and to find yourself the only way to discover it was to just live and that’s why Thoraue didn’t pay that poll tax at Waldo's Pond. He wanted to live through the experience to find himself, which motivated him to make movements. But what did make them so well-liked and became best buds is that they taught each other new things and settle on that people should go out into nature and to live a life of simplicity to find the truths in your life.

In conclusion, the power of nature is all around us, it might be blurred by the lines but as Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, to live life in the simplest form go out into nature to unlock the truth.   

05 January 2023
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