Skip to main content

Buy the Print Edition of Radical Second Things!

Stars of Courage: Henry David Thoreau

Note: As you can see, ALOT of work was put in to this. There was a pleasant degree of financial support for the first issue of the RST print magazine. In order to do more work like that, we need your support at whatever level you can give. Donating is easy:











\


For people advanced enough on intellectual matters to be reading this website, Henry David Thoreau needs no introduction. He was a consummate intellectual right at one of the cusps of America's defining moment - the Civil War. His book, Walden, was a book on "simple living in natural surroundings" that helped define much of the self-made living that is still very common in America's rural areas.

I was taught Thoreau's book Walden in a college course along with The Machine in the Garden, a book about the pastoral ideal written by author Leo Marx in the 1960s. Marx writes in that book several times of a frequent trope in American literature that depicts the interruption of American scenery by the whiz and blur of industrialization, which moved west with Americans as they settled amongst the continent. He illustrates Thoreau's writing of the sound of a passing steam locomotive near Walden Pond, interrupting an otherwise tranquil landscape.

Walden documents the experience of two years living in a cabin Thoreau built near Walden Pond, seeking to gain a more adept understanding of society through personal introspection and "self-sufficiency." Thoreau embodies American fantasies - that men can be islands unto themselves, going against the flow of the world and, in fact, somehow creating a world of their own.

Americans are not the only people to have such ideas. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, in his classic novel Don Quixote, depicts a man who loses touch with reality and goes about seeking to restore knighthood and chivalry. Saavedra's classic is meant to be absurd, however, whereas figures from Thomas Jefferson to Thoreau to Ayn Rand and many others encourage individualism on varying levels of extremes, facilitated by the ample natural resources in relation to population that America started out with.

There was a blowback against such ideas even in Thoreau's time. As one anonymous lumber merchant in 1871 was quoted as saying in a history of the time, "The habitual weakness of the American people is to assume they have made themselves great, whereas their greatness has in large measure been thrust upon them b...y a bountiful providence which has given them forests, mines, fertile soil, and a variety of climate to enable them to sustain themselves aplenty."
Many Americans aspire to have their own Walden Pond - my uncle built a home for himself and his family a generation ago in Duvall, Washington and did an impressive job with it. I had a roommate who, periodically, lived in the woods in solitude, quite happy with it, on what resources he allocated himself while boasting of being a "sovereign man." Communes and shared living actually populate rural areas in many parts of the world, such as Central Asia or Europe, whereas in the United States, rural areas are still spread out with neighbors who barely know one another and sometimes don't care to know one another.


However fantastical, Thoreau's individualism did not intend to lead to antisocial behavior. He saw independent living as an expression of individual human rights and was an outspoken abolitionist during the time in which the abolition of slavery was a violent topic in the United States. He was legendary and he helped forge the image of the American intellectual.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

"Life is Much More Than Bratwurst:" A Chat With Rummelsnuff

A note - Blogging isn't free. Right now I provide gifts to my writers as a way of thanking people for writing. I would like to be able to afford to give them some sort of renumeration, even if it is small, for making this blog what it is. I'm in talks with a friend who may be able to help connect this blog, which has been in existence for one year now, with more religious communities dedicated to interfaith dialogue. Your donation will do a lot toward making that happen.




Rummelsnuff is awesome. If you don't know, he is Roger Baptist - a bodybuilding German singer who has toured abundantly in support of his music - an unusual composite of German industrial, drinking songs and electronica. Roger was nice enough to do an interview with me and took the time to answer in English, not his first language. Thanks so much, Roger!

First off, you have quite the physique? Can you tell us about your diet, your regimen, etc.?

Maybe I am lucky to like exactly the stuff, which is good for mu…

No More Rev

So I was working as a transcribor for Rev for the last four months. I stayed on despite a few very bad ratings. Over the last few weeks, my ratings were on point, regularly getting 5/5 and bringing home 3 figures each week.

I got great ratings this week and then abruptly, tonight, I got this message sent to me: 

Unfortunately, we can no longer keep your transcription specific account open. This is due to your accuracy and quality being below our acceptable average. Your transcription account is being deactivated today. If you have any other account type with us, that will remain open. This decision is final.
You will be compensated for all completed work. Here are your performance metrics for August 6 to October 5.
So, given that message, I would assume that it's time to school my self-esteem, right? I'm obviously not fit for this line of work. Well not quite. Look at the metrics they sent me:
MetricYouRevver TargetRevver+ TargetAccuracy4.34.24.6Formatting4.74.24.6% On-time submiss…

The Nix and the Science of a Great Novel

I recently finished The Nix, a novel by up and coming novelist Nathan Hill, which fits all the standards for a really great novel. Great novels, despite the fluidity of good literature, do tend to follow a formula - a formula that a great artist (and writing is an art) is able to adept to and mold in to his own creation.

A great novel is sweeping. Sweeping or sprawling. These are descriptions you often hear of great books. Benjamin Percy described The Nix as "culturally relevant, politically charged, historically sweeping, sad, full of yearning, sometimes dark, but mostly hilarious." This is something that could also be described with another great American novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, which one critic refered to as a novel with "epic sweep."

Chabon's book swept through roughly three decades - the three protagonists met in the 1930s and only resolved their problems and tensions in the 1950s. Nathan Hill's characters …

RST on Facebook

About Radical Second Things

Michael Orion is a blogger, writer, artist and photographer based in the Bay Area. Besides his maintenance and promotion of Radical Second Things, he contributes to the San Francisco newspaper SF Western Edition, where he writes about local non-profit organizations.

Mark Cappetta is a practicing Catholic and active LGBT activist. He has been instrumental in keeping Radical Second Things and updates the Facebook account almost daily.

Eva Gnostiquette is an artist, programmer, "future scientist," bi-trans girl and graphic designer. She voluntarily helped to create the first print issue Radical Second Things and designed our beautiful banners. Thanks so much, Eva!

Jordan Denato is a professional artist based out of Iowa. He took the initiative to illustrate both Jennifer Reimer's story and Michael Orion's Oscar Romero work. He has his own art studio, Tar and Feather Studios, and is a critical part of Radical Second Things.

Radical Second Things is a liberation theology themed blog that has clear cut goals - we see the structural decline of the United States and much of the west and hope to present alternatives that will offer "a preferential option for the poor" as more become vulnerable.

© 2017 Radical Second Things