On Walden Pond

How often do I ask myself, “Why do you participate so willingly in the noisy rat race of humanity?” This is a difficult question when contemplated from the shores of Walden Pond, but my first response is easy–I don’t like being alone all the time and solitude is not all that it’s cracked up to be. At first the idea of being an independent being, completely removed from the frothing mass of humanity seems appealing, far from the maddening crowd. I mean, why should we put up with all the mediatic noise that contaminates our daily routine, the “circuses and bread” thrown to us by idiotic politicians and unthinking news sources that are only interested in defending their own interests and the truth be damned. On Walden Pond I can isolate myself from all of this noise, forget about the savage capitalistic consumerism of my neighbors, shut out the news media, turn a blind eye to the “entertainment” offered on the six hundred channels of cable, and listen to the birds chirp and the wind blow across the pond and through the trees who are my only neighbors. It is easier to live on Walden Pond than it is to tolerate the nonsense that invades my day via newspapers, radio, television, and the internet, but I can’t help but think that something is missing. Granted the noise of the daily grind is infuriating if not irritating, but is perpetual silence preferable? Am I shirking a moral responsibility to participate in the goings on that bother me, irk me, infuriate me? There have been others who have removed themselves from participation in daily life–hermits, anchorites, saints, castaways, the shipwrecked, and in all of those cases there seems to be a sacrifice which is made–the company of other human beings. After re-reading Robinson Crusoe again recently, I came to the conclusion that although Crusoe lived in isolation, he did everything he could to reproduce European society around himself, re-inventing the wheel, so to speak, so that he would feel less alone, and that is what I feel here–alone. Nevertheless, “aloneness” is not entirely a bad thing unless it also looks like a prison sentence that has no end. Perhaps this is why Cain and Abel were brothers, that one alone would have been a tragedy, but paradoxically, the two together was also a tragedy. So one must consider carefully the entire question of human existence in terms of this metaphor, the pair of brothers in which love turned to hate and finally to murder because they could not co-exist without the questions of greed, jealousy, and envy destroying their relationship. Yet, one alone would have also died of eternal melancholy brought on by the loneliness of one voice speaking in a vacuum with no one to hear of either his successes or failures. Is this the central metaphor of human existence? The water laps gently on the shore, the birds twitter and caw overhead, the gentle wind blows through the trees, and if I were to fall, no one would here my cries, no one would be there to help me. The central paradox of Walden Pond seems to be my inability to rid myself of my own humanity, my desire to speak with others, to interact even with those with whom I disagree. My own ideas are interesting but I cannot exist in a vacuum either. Perhaps we are all doomed by our own noise and our inability to separate ourselves from it. In the meantime, I look forward to examining this conundrum a bit further.