[When I think of Congress and its temporary inhabitants, I think of the words “arrogant ignorance”. Anti-intellectualism and disdain for reasonable argument is on the rise. In one ear a lobbyist tells a tall tale about money to a congressperson. Promises to pay are the stories’ finale. That tale flows out the mouth of the congress person, while other ear is stuffed with cotton for the constituent’s complaint. I wrote this a couple years ago after visiting Walden Pond and dreaming of my future seat in Congress.]
For two years, Henry David Thoreau lived in a tiny house he built on the northern shore of Walden Pond. He was a philosopher who, like everyone else, ate and slept and voided excrement, but unlike anyone these days, drafted a life worth living to a nineteenth century humanity rife with bacteria and virus that did not play nice. In my opinion, the memory of his fingernail dirt has more value on the exchange market of a modern earth turning than the life of any president or prime minister. He could conduct a future rife with wisdom to any poor boy in America over the age of eleven while wrapped up for just a day in his great coat. Thoreau— a higher prince than a modern Buddha, less of a dandy than flutey Krishna, and all the glory Jesus would have become if Texas never happened. I shall not explain, but I will tell you. I am weary of all interpretation, and attempts at persuasion. As of today I have transformed into the 21st century mutant red squirrel chip-monk. My eyes won’t blink. I distrust all several billion of you. Your species is insane. Without reason and philosophy, all people are suspect in a culture of sun and moon chasing unto death.
Slip on your tights and bike, thin middle-aged men of America, and cleanse. There’s a good work-out waiting. Climb a mountain, kayak a pond, check your heart and pulse rates with a watch fat burger automatons, and order bean sprouts to sweep out those greasy prostates.
Look what Americans have done to the memory of a great man! A state park. Ten bucks a car. Hired summer work to take the money, but no one paid to love the park. The bike riders come, with bike and gear worth more at resale than all I have accumulated in coin thus far with creative effort. Working class swimmers climbing out from their railroad shanties at midday to test their pallid potato skins in the broad daylight. No proud gait. No soft eyes. Smart-phoning selfies while the Fitchburg railroad roars past the southwestern shoreline. In the guestbook of Thoreau’s model cabin a girl wrote “Your book sucked”. I wrote beside her name, “iPhone thug!” Obviously a young girl, forced to read Walden in high school English class. A breathing, walking mound of ignorance—the embodiment of failure of parents and teachers unschooled in humility, reverence, and pride. The poor girl doesn’t have a chance at happiness and will die a theoretical old maid with the latest game app glued to her face. We handed the statue Henry our Tracfone and told him to GPS the Marlboro Road. Oops, the data was maxed. So he opted to snort a rock of meth on the beach with wannabe Boston skinheads and compare stupid tattoos.
We made our way to the pond and walked north along the shoreline. A man in full body American flag swimsuit was divulging his daily hair gel routine to two interested men obviously unhappy enough about their own hair to commit homicide. At that moment I wanted war to rain down upon us. There can be no future for my unborn grandchildren if this kind of narcissism has reached Walden Pond en masse. Just a few paces more and we arrived at the cabin site, the only original construction left being the foundation to the fireplace. Some society in 1947 thought enough of Thoreau to memorialize it for future Walden perambulators. I am grateful. I touched the stone that Henry dragged to this spot like a believer of the Dark Ages stroked a traveling sandal strap of his beloved savior. Humility revered is a wonderful feeling. It is a human touch we need now more than ever. So rare is it to be found in this present society. No one lauds the greatness of others in order to mark a hopeful destination for themselves. A woman came up with her friend and I overheard her telling him that living here was no big deal; he brought his laundry to his mother. Can’t be a great thinker if someone does your laundry! The arrogant ignorance of my countrymen. This poor woman can’t breathe without Ronald McDonald, gasoline, French cheese, Vietnam sweatshops, Proctor and Gamble, Internet connection, GPS, 20% gratuity, big media everything, alarm clock snooze and periodontics unto death after partial.
Up on Author’s Ridge, back in Concord village, Emerson self combusted his bones after hearing that one. Alcott didn’t get the irony—she always did her man’s laundry… And wrote books. Equality she knew was seven generations or more away, so adversity was obvious and had to be overcome. Now thoughtful people leave trinkets at her grave, and dumb people piss their Pepsi in Walden Pond. Thoreau’s mother did his laundry! My god, we should just start eating each other if this is what humanity has become in Concord, Massachusetts. Arrogant ignorance. Men teaching men about hair gel products. Dogs being invited to shop with their loved ones. Bicycling for no other reason than to detox almonds, kale, and the occasional meat product prepared by immigrant slaves a thousand miles away. Target® probably sells “Civil Disobedience”. Why not? It’s all cuckoo without men like Thoreau. America had a very brief Greek revival in a time of devastating child mortality and over-the-top fear of the supernatural. So brief that it lost all ground after one generation. Thoreau knew what seeds his contemporaries would leave. He wrote warnings and solutions. At the Old North Bridge that is in need of much care, the grounds being neglected from lack of help, one can look skyward to a machine of war flying by. It’s good and loud, arrogant and ignorant. Back home the pilot gels his hair and learns from his kids a new smartphone app. This weekend the family is taking the bikes up to Newburyport to ride the bay circuit to Ipswich. About as transcendental as Gandhi on a lunchbox, or Martin Luther King boulevard on a hot summer day.
Henry Thoreau lived for me, but only I can care.