And E M Forester said, “Only connect!” Some have read that iconic passage from Ktaadn (15 paragraphs from the end) as praising Scottish “Common Sense” philosophy, especially when Thoreau, after feeling his soul slip away between his ribs, pleads for “The Common Sense.” He’s terrorized by loss of orientation at the top of the mountain where Titans are creating a world out of worse that waste and welter and he crys in desperation before tumbling out of the clouds into familiar burnt forrest, “Contact! Contact! The Common Sense, Who are we . . .” I don’t think the stress should be on having good old ‘common sense’ but on having the shared sense of orientation that gives us up-and-down, left-and-right, me-here, you-there, Dasein, feet-on-rock — the sort of orientation that makes sense experience or contact possible, the sensus communus (as I recall — is it Vico? — and maybe I don’t have the Latin quite right). And notice that as he loses his way the way for all is in question — who are we!
What a refutation of those who scoff, as if he found wilderness only at Walden a mile from town. Here he found it and was happy not to enjoy it, and leaves it to the gods — he doesn’t even tell a nice redeeming story about it, the way he does with the dead horse just off the path to town, whose stench makes him take a detour. The corpse may offend the senses but it doesn’t make him gasp in horror. Even the human corpses piled on the sand after shipwreak off Cape Cod, flesh bloated, don’t disorient and disembowel him the way Ktaddn does.