"To inspire them to realize more and more of their capacities for living meaningful lives. Because there certainly is meaning to life."
-John Coltrane on Uplifting Others

Monday, October 11, 2010

Four Necessities of Life

According to Thoreau in Walden, man only needs four things: Food, Shelter, Clothing and Fuel. Everything else is luxury, and Thoreau wrote:
Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind (11).
I'm wondering how true his statements are. Aren't human interactions a necessity, or is it a luxury to have friends? Is this concept part of Shelter? I know that even though he went to the woods to experience a primitive life, Thoreau also entertained friends from Concord.

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Photo found on talkingtree.com


  1. Eh, I have issues with Walden. I guess he needed to purge himself of some of the things of the world - I definitely understand that impulse, I need to run away sometimes where it's just me and the mountains, or just me and the piano, you know, something like that - and I think it depends on the person. Thoreau was naturally an intellectual, and a person prone to pondering (woo alliteration), but I know people for whom that wouldn't really do much good; for some, especially those focused on the practical, it would just be a waste of time, and some people are so involved in their own heads and so confused when it comes to social interaction that spending more time without people is really not a good idea for their development.

    That being said - that it's not really for everyone - I think it is beneficial for some people to take this break as he did. Humans mostly all have the same needs, just in different proportions, so it's important to take that into consideration.

  2. I believe everyone needs to have their own Walden experience. Like Jaky states, humans have the same needs in different proportions. We need to listen to ourselves and the world that we live in isn't conducive to listening to yourself. I find great value in walking on my own and with my wife. I feel like I can hear myself think. Whatever you do, you've got to do it to keep from going insane.

  3. I also agree with Jaky about the proportions idea. And I do think that there are some things in our lives that we can live without, but I don't necessarily think that means certain people SHOULD. I think it's important that we do take time to realize the world is still around us, no matter where we are. It makes me think of the city in "The Phantom Tollbooth" where people who lived in the most beautiful city in the world realized they could get to where they were going a lot faster if they looked at the ground, and gradually their city turned invisible because they never looked at it. Does that make sense? I think I'm getting off track. Anyway, I also think Thoreau was a bit of a hypocrite. His mom did his laundry while he was at Walden.