November 8, 2014
What People Miss
Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new. … One may almost doubt if the wisest man has learned anything of absolute value by living.
It was a cold Tuesday morning, the sun was shining brightly and the 9th grade class was shambling their way out to the buses to go over to Walden Pond. The grade did not look like they were having much fun, even though they would not have any academic classes that day. The kids thought the trip was kind of a so what trip because they did not see the point in seeing where Thoreau worked and wrote his book. Once we got there everybody realized it was more than that, it was an opportunity to learn about what Thoreau saw and where he was when he learned so much about the world and what people miss about the world when they do what they have done for their entire lives.
When I was at Walden I realized, If I had not been told to write a reflection about our trip when we were there, I know I would not have noticed half the things I did. When I was there I realized people don't know what the difference between want and need is. Henry David Thoreau mentions this in Economy, when he talks about what people need to survive. People often want new stuff, yet they never need it. They often think they need the newest and best iPhone or the newest toy or what ever but they really don't, they just want it. People never need the new phone or the new game. They just want to have them. The only reason that they want to have them is because it is newer so it has to be better than the old one. The new phone has to be better than the old phone even though they still do that same thing. They both call, text, check email, surf the web, and take pictures. There is no big difference that is big enough to spend 500 dollars on. There might be a better camera but then buy a new camera not a new phone. “And when the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the house that has got him.” All the time people are buying new thing and getting new toys, half the time those thing are bought on an instinct, you see it, you want it, you buy it. That's how most people are now and a days they want things that they see. You would be surprised that if you wait just a day to see if you still want it, how often you no longer remember what it was or don't even think of it again. Sometimes you see something and you keep going back to it again and again. Then you buy it, eve though you still don't need it you buy it. The things that you do need are things like food and clothes and a way to get around so gas and a car, but we spend more money on the things we want than the things we need.
“I think that it would be better than this, for the students, or those who desire to be benefited by it, even to lay the foundation themselves.” -Thoreau
When he starts writing about the faults in our education system, his main point is that people would benefit if they had to do the work themselves. For example if you were build your own house you would want to make sure that the walls stayed up, because if they fell you would be the only one to blame and you could make sure that you didn't hurt your self. If you were to be able to build a school that you could make the rules at, it would be the perfect school for you, but it. At not be the perfect school for some one else, that because they did not build it. If you could design a school it would probably be the best you can want. Since most people don't get to build a school there is almost never the perfect school for anyone because the school is perfect for the one who would build it. Every school will have something that you don't like. I am finding this at almost every school that I visit during the secondary school application process. Some school it's the location others it is that they don't offer wrestling or Latin. If you want to learn something and not forget it you have to do it with your hand and by your self. Thoreau writes about a boy who gets shown how to make a knife and a boy who makes one on his own. If you want to learn something you should be the one to teach your self what to do.
People have never stopped to wonder what they are missing by doing what they do every single day of their lives, they miss a lot. In his book Walden, Henry David Thoreau mentions this indirectly when he says “He has no time to be anything but a machine….” which is still true to this day. People are often working for almost all their lives they do the same thing every day of the week except for the weekend where they have some fun, but most of their lives are spent doing what they think they need to do to survive, earn money. People are always trying to earn money, people work for about 40 hours each week doing just that, working.
Once I realized this, I also realized that people evaluate each other by what they have and who they are. That's part of why people often want to go buy the newest and best smart phone or the most updated version of a lap top which they do not need, but they think they do. The reason for that is because you think if I have a newer phone I am better than some one who doesn't. The new phone may be bigger and look cooler, but it still does the same thing that you would have used your old phone for, texting, emailing, calling and work, you can do that on both phones. I have the iPhone 4 which is smaller than the newest version, it may have a worse camera and it doesn't have Siri, but I can still text, call email and do work on it. The main reason that you wanted the new phone is so you can think of your self as better than any one who does not have that phone. We as people also evaluate each other by our homes. Walden touches briefly on this topic when Thoreau says “Most men appear never to have considered what a house is, and are actually though needlessly poor all their lives because they think that they must have such a one as their neighbors have...". This is still true even 150 or so years later, people think that they need a big house, but in reality the just need a roof over their heads and a place to warm up in the winter months when it cold outside. People spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to have heat in the winter and lights at night which just make their lives easier, but is it worth all that money when you can use candle and have a fire burning all the time to heat your house for only the cost the calories you burn when you get the fire wood for your house. I will not disagree that lighting and heating are safer and easier than the alternatives of fire and candles but you can live almost the same while having more fun. Which is more fun going out in to the woods cutting down a tree brining it back and making it in to fire wood or doing nothing, I think getting the fire wood because it will never be the same sometimes you may see animals or maybe not, but if you do nothing you will have no variety in your life.
After reading the first section of Walden I have come to realize that people need to be more self motivated, because people often pay others to do work which they can do on their own. The most common example is construction, people pay people to build houses for them Ben though they may be able to do it on their own. If they build their own house it may not be as good but it is more than what some people have. I also learned people need to be more self aware, by that I mean they need to know why they want the newest phone an know more about what they need vs what they want. People have survived thousands of years with out the use of Internet and over 40 years we have become dependent on it. That just goes to show that we can survive with out Internet or cell phones. I will not disagree they make our lives easier, but do we don't need them. Lastly I learned if you want to learn how to do something you will have to figure out how to learn to do it and not wait for someone else to want to learn about it.
“If it is asserted that civilization is a real advance in the condition of man—and I think that it is, though only the wise improve their advantages- it must be shown that it has produced better dwellings without making them more costly”
Thoreau is questioning if the advances in civilization are a benefit to man or a downfall, because we may have better houses and other thing but are we happier as a species, when we are continually working and always needing money. We could be living in small wooden huts and live just fine and sustain ourselves for years, just like Thoreau did and have more fun than sitting around in a big new house with a bunch of waisted space.