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Final Exam Paper - Thoreau's Philosophy on Simplicity

djrunn3r 1 / 2  
May 31, 2012   #1
So, my professor has replaced the final exam with a final paper instead. One of the topics given to us involved Thoreau's philosophy on, "Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!" and how that was emphasized in a small excerpt from the second chapter of his book, "Walden."

It's supposed to be about 800-1000 words long. Right now I have about 800 words but I feel like there are going to be major cuts as this is only a first draft. As for what kind of feedback I'm particularly looking for, I'd love to hear about any organization, structural issues and if it flows properly or not. I'm sure some of you have not read "Walden" so I'd also like to hear about the way I explained his philosophy in a way that is accessible and pleasant to the readers with the examples I've provided. Also, just blatantly point out if the essay feels too bland. Those were the main things I wanted focused on coupled with the usual grammatical fixes and whatnot. Cheers!

The simple life: something we think about at some point or another. We would not have to worry about our paychecks and bills, our cars and clothes, our housing and phones. Life would be a bowl of alphabet soup on a winter's morning. It'd be simple to make and, most importantly, it'd satisfy that which is important, our bodies. In Thoreau's essay, "Why I Went to the Woods," he calls on us, as human beings to strive to live in such a way. He desires for man to wish for it and want it; to live without the distraction that material possession imposes on us. He desires for us to live on what is only needed to live, that which satisfy both our bodies and our souls. "Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity," Thoreau proposes relatively early on in his essay. This proclamation becomes the basis for his philosophy that he then lives out for two years. In that time span, Thoreau reflected upon the simple life, our neglect of it as we age, and the illusion of progress.

Simplicity, as defined by the Webster's dictionary, is a simple state or quality; freedom from complexity; absence of elegance and luxury; uncomplicated. All of those definitions compose Thoreau's own ideals about simplicity. For example, he had found himself in a position where there was no freedom. Instead, people were often much more committed to the world around them rather than fulfilling their own true purpose as it fit in nature. With the world symbolizing complexity, Thoreau encourages to break free from that which is hindering us and, rather, simplify our lives. Furthermore, he was an avid anti-materialist. Sure cell phones, computers, and even trains may seem like the world is progressing, but these new technologies seem to add further to the complexity that is the world.

When Thoreau was writing this essay, he lived in an era that had just been exposed to the train, a symbol for technological advancement. Unlike the vast majority of the population, Thoreau argued that this new innovation brought about this false illusion of progress. Sure, it got one from point A to point B in quick intervals, but it only created another complexity in life. One would have to abide to the authority that is the train; there are only a number of places it can go and it can only leave at certain times. So, what would Thoreau say about today's world? The recent technological advances today have been startling. Computers and phones have certainly made communication easier through social media, not to mention the fact that they are becoming hubs of entertainment. However, I think Thoreau would make a clear distinction between ease and simplicity. It's certainly easier to call someone from anywhere without having to restrict yourself to payphones. It's easier to fax someone a letter rather than putting it into an envelope and mailing it at the post office. Even though these advancements make some aspects of life easy, they don't make it simpler. In fact, the simplest thing to do is to not learn how to use these things and, instead, indulge in the things that simplify. Those who indulge themselves with such materialistic things are prone to the distractions that they impose. One becomes unaware and further disconnected from the world. Furthermore, the objects themselves waste time and space. In the end, Thoreau implores us to take up an anti-materialistic philosophy. Too rid oneself of such things is the first step to simplicity.

As children, we live life to its fullest. I guess one could say that childhood is the epitome of simplicity. So, what changes? When do we become the beings that are so engrossed with the world that we forget how to live? Does adulthood take away the true spirit that is life? According to Thoreau, "Children, who play life, discern its true law and relations more closely than men, who fail to live it worthily, but who think they are worthier by experience, that is, by failure." With this, children live life better than any of us who live with such seriousness. Society has created within us a never-ending hole of distractions. If the stresses of work and school weren't hard enough to cope with, the daily news fills our heads with even more things to worry about. Advertising on websites and newspapers about shiny new coffee machines or cell phones makes us buy more things we don't need. These insignificant things should not be a concern at all. Yet, we fall into this trap of being concerned. In response, Thoreau, as he had been suggesting the whole time, asks us to simplify our lives and only focus on the things that truly matter to us. By complicating our lives with such things, we become even more stressed out, distracted, and, ultimately, unhappy. In this way, children, who lack any of these distractions, are the epitome of a simple life.
chessman567 5 / 170 11  
May 31, 2012   #2
Just wanted to say, thanks for looking at my thread! :)
It'd be simple to make and, most importantly, it'd satisfy that which [perhaps the word "what" would be better here] is important, our bodies.

Sure [ delete the word sure] cell phones, computers, and even trains may seem like the world is progressing, but these new technologies seem to add further to the complexity that is the world.

Great essay!!! Yet, I may be wrong, but you may need to talk about more specifically about Warden's excerpt. You give a lot of awesome examples (I liked the one about alphabet soup) , but you the examples are related to simplicity, yet not related to Warden's excerpt.

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