For good and ill, a blog — my blog — often catches thought on the move, quite the opposite of an essay refined and finished through multiple revisions, even when the aim of that essay might be to capture at least some degree of ‘thought on the move’. My itch this morning, pursued informally at blog-level of resolution and delivery, is to be less baffled by our different modes of understanding Thoreau. How does he so deftly escape our attempts to say “what he is up to’? How does he get away just as we think we’ve found his place on the map? After all, he gets away with appealing
- sometimes to the canon of natural history and biology, sometimes to the canon of Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Sanskrit scripture,
- sometimes to our native wit and common sense,
- sometimes to the canon of Higher Laws (and then to lower ones),
- sometimes to our sense of the majestic Sublime, and sometimes to our sense of curiosity at miniscule ants lined up for miniature battle,
- sometimes to our sense of the absolute need to honor Justice, as in protesting slavery — sometimes the absolute need to honor Beauty, as in the appearance of a sweet Lily in the midst of political evil and personal desolation.
Thoreau leads by example, leads us to enjoy multiplicity, enjoy the polymorphic and polysemous, and honor and delight in the anomalous zones,
- where crabs belong to the sea and the sand,
- where Walden is the single love of our dreams (“Is it you, Walden?”) . . . and yet, no better or worse than White Pond,
- where the Pond is an eye of the Soul and the eye of the Earth, and my eye can peer into and be recognized by both,
- where you and I belong to each other and unto ourselves alone.
So where does that lead me? At the least, to abide openness, to restrain the impulse toward closure, to delay or suspend the anxious need for a QED, at all costs — to bury any hint of a ringing announcement that Thoreau or Walden has at last been tamed.