A Paradise Lost

Column by new Root Striker Blake Bengtson.

Exclusive to STR

Paradise is a difficult thing to define. For some it could mean a fancy hotel in a tropical climate. For others it could be a bustling metropolis with an active nightlife and booming culture. Paradise to me is an absence. An absence of people, an absence of noise, an absence of thought. My personal paradise would be one surrounded by the beauty of nature, free from man's bilious mark, his incessant barking of horns and sirens--a plight upon my serenity. This doesn't mean I don't enjoy my modern amenities brought to us by our constricted market, but an escape to nature refreshes the mind like nothing else.

On a recent pilgrimage to Walden Pond, seeking the seclusion and solace I so desired, I was accosted by overwhelming contradictions, both in my surroundings and thoughts. As I'm sure the reader knows, Walden was the site Henry David Thoreau chose to “live deliberately,” building his cabin and living in nature. After reading Walden a number of times, I was looking forward to visiting the actual site. OK, I was ecstatically excited. Fine. I was like a little girl who just got a pony, jumping up and down in utter delight. Thoreau is one of my personal heroes, and the thought of walking the same ground and seeing the same sights as he, thrilled me thoreau-ly. Bad joke? Moving on.

My arrival at the site was promising. There were no houses to be seen, and the woods seemed thick with conifers and traffic was light on the cool, misty day. I pulled in to the road marked “Walden” and felt a pang of worry almost immediately at the sight of an automated pay booth and orange construction netting and temporary chain link fence on a sea of parking lots snuffing out the proud forest. Though this was worrisome, I didn't let it curb my excitement. “It's just the parking lot,” I thought, “It sucks that I have to pay the government to see this, but whatever, I'm here.” So proudly displaying my “taxation is theft” shirt, I parked, admired the reconstruction of Thoreau's cabin, and posed for a quick picture with the statue of the man before heading to the pond.

Walking down the paved path, I was struck by the cement and stone wall behind the beach and the rather large, ugly building on the shore. Still in my state of denial, I continued on, sat at a picnic table and ate my bread and cheese quite merrily. Almost unbelievably merrily. Whilst walking away, some state-clothed people decided to interrogate me on my choice of beverage. “Why! 'Tis only a bottle of scrumptious spiced soda, surely that poses no affront to your finer scruples than my own?” I exclaimed. “Nay!” replied the state's forest overseers “nary a day goes by some scullion violates the lord's woods, with some unwholesome elixir, mind us not for our just inquiry!” That being done with, I trudged off into the woods, my only thought to escape the prying eyes and distasteful structures I found myself inundated by.

I strolled a ways on the beach, before feeling the urge to explore the well defined, sectioned-off-from-the-forest paths. The remainder of the walk was peaceful, and for the most part uninterrupted, save by my thoughts. I reflected on what I had seen, happy people enjoying the beach, using the trails for exercise, going about their business, having paid the toll for use. Then I reached the actual site of the cabin, saw the pile of rocks those before me had left. Some had quotes from Thoreau, which I found fitting. Some had names of people, which I was indifferent to. Some spoke of graduating classes, and I scoffed at them and called them fools. They clearly didn't understand who Thoreau was, and what he meant to accomplish at Walden. Then I saw a single rock that was like a beacon shining through the misted twilight, leading me back home. It simply stated, “wake up.”

I had been in a dream, arriving at my destination, saying I'm already here,not causing waves for the sake of ease. Like everyone else, I was peering at the surface, unable to think of the root. The rock woke me up. Thoreau left the woods because his feet were making distinguishable paths among the leaf litter. What would he think of this? His site funding a machine that kills the innocent? Buildings, a blight on the pond. Fenced off trails in, but separate from nature?

This was an affront. Thoreau's message was lost. These people were like me, yet on a grander scale. They just want to enjoy life as it is, “who cares if it's not perfect, we're here for a short time.” Walden Pond at face was enjoyable, and I'd recommend a trip to anyone. At base it is an abhorrent example of the state mutilating something wonderful, something pure and watering down the potent message of a remarkable human being. The site is sullied by concrete, by unthinking human traffic.

I made the mistake of pandering to my own wants rather than my thoughts that had been tearing at me internally since I arrived. I escaped this on a larger scale when I denounced the legitimacy of not just the current government, but all governments that have existed or will exist. Thoreau's message will not be lost again by me. Hopefully someday Walden returns to what it was supposed to be. A retreat for those who loved nature, not a scheme for the state. Though the branches sometimes get in our eyes and they can even seem quite nice, the root is to be struck until the whole forest is once again in view.

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Anarchoblake's picture
Columns on STR: 2

Historian/Political scientist living in a police state who writes for fun on the side.


Samarami's picture

Your article hints at my ongoing slogan, "if it's going to be, it's up to me".

Whether I'm in Walden or just wandering out to the local corn or cotton patch, I've gotta be free. Nobody can make me free. That's up to me. Nobody can stop me from being free.

Like you, I enjoy seclusion -- being away from the crowd. Just the thought of going to, for instance, a stadium full of cheering, jeering halfwits nauseates me. Many of those morons pay big bucks to attend "the-big-game", and you couldn't pay me to sit there -- particularly to have to endure the sickening halftime war promotions.

I've got the choice if predators want to collect for visiting a historical site. I can decide to pay, or stay away. I tend to sidestep all "historical" sites.

Keep striking at the root.


Paul's picture

In my drives through Oregon, I once ended up here:

I got out of the car. There was no wind, no con trails in the sky, no birds, nothing. Just blessed quiet. I felt like the last man on earth. The only sign of human presence was a little-traveled gravel road. I just stood there for a while, basking in the nothingness.

It's strange that such a nowhere place remains in my memory. I can definitely agree that a person needs solitude now and then.