Once I was chatting online with a distantly-located friend. We both love reading. Naturally, the conversation veered towards what books we were reading at that time. I told her I was reading a collection of essays by Emerson. It’s quite a tome with 23 essays from Emerson’s First and Second Series; the topics ranged from life, heroism, friendship, love, nature, prudence and some more critical human virtues.My friend happened to mention that Ralph Waldo Emerson was Henry Thoreau’s mentor.
Until then, all I knew about Thoreau was this: a philosopher and thinker (Indian history textbooks love this word) who wrote an essay called Resistance to Civil Government (also known as Civil Disobedience). As we talked, my friend told me how Thoreau was inspired by Emerson’s philosophy of transcendentalism to write his book Walden. Thoreau wrote his book while living in a cabin on the edge of a woodland owned by his mentor.
From what seemed like a random conversation taking place through the digital medium, I discovered something new. My perception about Thoreau changed. He was no longer just another forward-looking thinker from the history books. I became curious about transcendentalism, the belief system put forth by Emerson in his essay Nature. The essay puts forth a non-traditional appreciation of nature.
It is somewhat of a biased perception (I think) that online conversations are rarely meaningful. It’s all about the efforts you make to add substance to what you are saying. Just like any “offline” conversation. You ask questions, you say something about yourself, you talk about what you think, you show curiosity about what the other person thinks, and most importantly, you hold those itchy fingers off the emojis and say what you feel in WORDS. It is easier said than done. For me, it is a personal choice. Mostly because many of my friends, who have the same interests as me (reading and books), have moved away to different states and countries. Talking to them through online apps and digital devices is the only way to satisfy the bibliophile part of me. And it is a major part of me.So I can really not do without talking about books. I seek out those bookish conversations.
The conversation about Emerson and Thoreau happened months ago. A couple of weeks back I was at the bookstore. There, in its bright orange glory, was the Penguin Pocket Edition of Walden—a reminder of the beginning of many wonderful and, let me say it explicitly, meaningful conversations about books and bits about life.
Yes, I grabbed a copy. Now I am looking forward to embarking upon a trippy transcendental trip to the woods and Walden Pond. Before that, I need to finish A Bee-keeper’s Manual by Henry Taylor. I will be posting my thoughts on the beekeeping manual in the next review. And then, I will be off to my trippy trip…