This is a series of journals recording my days in the Yangtze River Headwaters volunteering project. I will try to update every day but there might be delays in the days I work in the wild without the internet. I’m also trying to write bilingual if time allows. Like it? Follow my Instagram (@anar.chica.yichenguo) for updates!
“I am monarch of all I survey,
My right there is none to dispute.”
By the bank of isolated Bende Lake, and around Thoreau’s 203’s birthday, I read his <Walden>. Suddenly I felt weak to write anything. Too many insights and feelings about nature and society are the same. What I want to express was already expressed in this book. But anyway there are still a few points of difference.
While reading this book, I could not ignore the loneliness deep inside of Thoreau, although he addressed several time that he loved the companion of loneliness and even explained means to reconcile with it (but if he really loved it, why did he need to reconcile?). It’s like people who always have an unbelievably brilliant smile often have deeper sorrows inside of them.
He read lots of books and thought he had already travelled around the world without going out of his house. It reminds me of the couch surfing hosts in Kurdistan, the northern part of Iraq, who host tourists around the world to know the outside due to their impossibility to travel anywhere thanks to their passports. Of course reading is good, but I think to really know a culture, one needs to step on that land with his own feet, hold that book with his own hands, observe those people with his own eyes, and listen to that language with his own ears. Working behind closed doors is like Robert Burton, even though <The Anatomy of Melancholy> has integrated numerous books in a really good and fun way, there is a little bit of soul missing. Anyway, Thoreau has indeed lived his life for real, therefore his words are powerful in terms of human’s existence as part of the nature.
I don’t think I can really seclude myself (Thoreau said so as well, and then since there was only him living there, he had to claim that he loves being alone. I think he was just rather to be alone if there wasn’t one he felt comfortable living together with). Since last year, all my traveling and volunteering experiences have become more and more closely related to people and their cultures. It is the same here in the Yangtze Headrivers area. In order to protect this area, Green River has to carry out an investigation on the local human ecology. The learnings I get is that the nature that I want to protect is the nature damaged by human activities. As the old Chinese saying goes, ‘to untie the knot you need the one who tied the knot.’ How can we protect the nature sustainably if we know nothing about the people and the culture that have damaged it at the beginning?
After all, <Walden> is an excellent book. Here are some excerpts that are exactly what I wanted to say:
- I desire that there may be as many different persons in the world as possible; but I would have each one be very careful to find out and pursue his own way.
- As long as possible live free and uncommitted. It makes but little difference whether you are committed to a farm or the county jail.
- The millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive.
- I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor.
- Shams and delusions are esteemed for soundest truths, while reality is fabulous.