Author Topic: Do you agree with Thoreau?  (Read 27585 times)

Offline Front-Ranger

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Do you agree with Thoreau?
« on: May 23, 2006, 05:26:43 pm »
Thoreau said: "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." What do you think? (Choose up to three)

I've spent an entire week on this message board, and the only thing I haven't done is to create a poll. So, here's my poll on a question I've been pondering for years. Thank you for your vote and thoughts. Front-Ranger
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moremojo

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Re: Do you agree with Thoreau?
« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2006, 05:40:17 pm »
I think most people have lots of ups and downs in the course of their lives, little moments of happiness and sorrow jutting out from a level field of day-to-day equilibrium. Lots of people do lead lives of quiet desperation, but I don't think they're representative of the majority of humanity.

Scott
« Last Edit: February 15, 2008, 07:49:18 pm by moremojo »

Offline delalluvia

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Re: Do you agree with Thoreau?
« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2006, 07:43:16 pm »
IMO in order to lead lives of quiet desperation, the mass of people need to aspire to something else.  The majority of the world's population live in circumstances that do not lead them to aspire to do anything but survive.  Once that is accomplished on a regular basis, unless outside forces intrude, most don't aspire to do anything much but what they know.

Only civilizations/societies wealthy enough to have their population granted leisure time enable them to think of situations and lifestyles other than simply getting by.

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Re: Do you agree with Thoreau?
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2006, 05:44:29 pm »
No optimists among us???
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Offline isabelle

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Re: Do you agree with Thoreau?
« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2006, 06:24:13 am »
Let me just quote Pink Floyd in "The Dark Side of the Moon":

Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way

I lived in England for a year, and can see where that came from, but that was the end of the 80's and 10 years into Thatcherism, so that was not surprising!
Yeah, I'd go for "ups and downs". We are happier than we could ever hope to be, at SOME moments. Unless you are a Buddhist or other meditative person, in which case you have worked on feeling happy in any situation. But there're few of those around.
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Offline Aussie Chris

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Re: Do you agree with Thoreau?
« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2006, 09:49:59 am »
Hmmm, this is tricky.  Does whether or not you personally identify with the notion of "men lead lives of quiet desperation and struggle" play a part in whether you think the "the mass of men" do?  I think so, and few really feel they get there, or as I prefer to say: just about everyone is searching for something but few know what it is that they are searching for.  Ergo, the majority are desperate on some level.

Phew! That's depressing!  I do have faith that we are getting better at knowing our path though, our presence here is proof of that! :D
Nothing is as common as the wish to be remarkable - William Shakespeare

Offline YaadPyar

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Re: Do you agree with Thoreau?
« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2006, 12:23:13 pm »
I don't know how it is elsewhere, but the sheer number of seemingly well-adjusted folks in this country who are desperate for relief from their pain can be measured in anti-depressant prescriptions.  And it's even tricker when you are someone who has achieved the "American Dream" - when you have every expected measure of success, and still you are unhappy in the intangible and desperate way that burrows deep into your soul and reminds you that you have not yet found meaning... 
"Vice, Virtue. It's best not to be too moral. You cheat yourself out of too much life. Aim above morality. If you apply that to life, then you're bound to live life fully." (Harold & Maude - 1971)

Offline isabelle

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Re: Do you agree with Thoreau?
« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2006, 12:44:50 pm »
Well Celeste, I am and am not surprised; I am because in France we are always told that we are the world's n#1 consumers of anti-depressants. And I am not, because indeed (material) "success" as we think of it here (so called industrialized / developped countries) is certainly no guarantee of happiness.
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moremojo

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Re: Do you agree with Thoreau?
« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2006, 02:23:50 pm »
Reading through contributors' comments here, I was just trying to remember what country I once read had the highest suicide rate in the world (suicide often being attributed to depression)--I think it was Hungary. Now, that was some time ago, so I don't know if it would be accurate today.

Material success and comfort are certainly no guarantees of happiness. Brokeback Mountain illustrates that through the depiction of Jack and Lureen's compromised marriage. And we know that Jack would have given that up in a heartbeat to make his life with Ennis, even if their home had been the tiniest and loneliest of trailers.

On another tangent, has anyone else noticed that we tend to reify and privilege moments of happiness as indicative of how life should be or somehow really is, while moments of depression or horror tend to be treated as problems to be overcome? I have sometimes wondered, in my more philosophical moods, if sorrow and horror might not be more accurate or appropriate responses to our world, and that we might willfully overlook this because the emotional burden is too overwhelming to bear. In my level-headed frames of mind, I tend to see the world as a neutral plane onto which we project our biases, fears, and desires, and that life is really neither "good" nor "bad", but simply what we make of it. But I think it's quite telling of what kind of creatures we are that we tend to shun sorrow and horror in the pursuit, sometimes blindly, of whatever we perceive to be joyful or comfortable.

Scott

Offline delalluvia

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Re: Do you agree with Thoreau?
« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2006, 08:09:32 pm »

On another tangent, has anyone else noticed that we tend to reify and privilege moments of happiness as indicative of how life should be or somehow really is, while moments of depression or horror tend to be treated as problems to be overcome? I have sometimes wondered, in my more philosophical moods, if sorrow and horror might not be more accurate or appropriate responses to our world, and that we might willfully overlook this because the emotional burden is too overwhelming to bear. In my level-headed frames of mind, I tend to see the world as a neutral plane onto which we project our biases, fears, and desires, and that life is really neither "good" nor "bad", but simply what we make of it. But I think it's quite telling of what kind of creatures we are that we tend to shun sorrow and horror in the pursuit, sometimes blindly, of whatever we perceive to be joyful or comfortable.


Well said Scott. I think it was David Duchovny talking about a meeting with his psychologist in which he lamented how down he was.  The doctor asked him if he was sad all the time.  He replied no.  Was he happy all the time?  And he also replied no.

The doctor pretty much made him come to the conclusion that his emotional state was fleeting and was supposed to be.  He wasn't supposed to be happy or sad all the time.

In fact, IMO, I think as people we should run in a kind of emotional/mental 'neutral' state most of the time.  Joy and sadness being extremes of this state based on our environment and experiences.

It's alright to 'just be OK'.