Transcendentalism at home

Thinking this morning about the Transcendentalism chapter of my book-in-progress on walking and philosophy.

Good philosophy transcends mere theory and solves some of the practical problems of life, said Thoreau. Take housework. Please.

I had three pieces of limestone on my desk, but I was terrified to find that they required to be dusted daily, when the furniture of my mind was all undusted still, and threw them out the window in disgust. How, then, could I have a furnished house? I would rather sit in the open air, for no dust gathers on the grass, unless where man has broken ground.

Simple solution. (But what to do about that cat on my desk? Can I fling him too? Wanted to, when he woke me in the wee hours battling his counterpart on the other side of the French doors in the library.)

Another practical problem a walker must solve, especially this time of year, is yardwork – not how to do it, but how to hold it safely at bay, away from our sacred hours of perambulation. Henry’s friend Emerson:

I delight in long free walks. These free my brain and serve my body. . . . But these stoopings and scrapings and figurings in a few square yards of garden are dispiriting, driveling, and I seem to have eaten lotus, to be robbed of all energy, and I have a sort of catalepsy, or unwillingness to move, and have grown peevish and poor-spirited.

Precisely. But it’s a simple solution again: toss that rake and shovel, slide away from the barrow, step over the mulch-pile, stride swiftly and repeat. Don’t look back.

The days are gods.


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