West By Northwest; North by Northwest

In chapter 6 and 7 of Blue Highways, there are a few themes that stuck out, but one that sort of overshadowed the rest. The theme of human error and how that error, or potential to live in error, guides one’s life. Least Heat Moon seems to use segued stories and historical anecdotes about man’s inconsequence regarding the natural world around him, to mirror perhaps his own inconsequence within that world. When that world fights back, in earnestness of being acknowledged, it is inevitably the human subject who suffers, due to their own self-absorption.

In 6-2, Heat Moon uses a quote from a Native American man to illustrate a bit of this. He says, “Blue road is the road of one who is distracted; who is ruled by his senses and lives for himself rather than for his people.” This man’s statement seemed to show Heat Moon his own preoccupation with self and his own, “skewed vision,” or “the vision of a man looking at himself by looking at what he looks at.” The entirety of this reading has been one of a man who, in willful escape, leaves behind everything to go on a path of self-discovery and to wander the blue highways (a term he even admitted he believed to have thought up on his own). But almost in spite of himself, he is finding himself through the lens of how others view him, as well as through the lens of his own heritage.

Another important passage, which also served as a mirror for Heat Moon’s own journey, was when he was speaking to the two hang-gliders. When inquiring into the logistics behind the sport, he was met with an interesting response.

You feel like a wounded goose before you take off but once the sail fills and you’re stable, it’s like you’ve grown wings… You’v got to be a little nervous or you get cocky and careless, then it’s stuff-it time. Gotta risk a little more to improve -to go beyond- but if we take up too much, it could be our last lesson. The problem is we don’t always know when we get in over our heads. Gotta trust our gut reactions without giving into them. That’s what’s hard.”

This interaction demonstrates, I think, the journey that Heat Moon himself has set upon. A slow and steady step into a furtive glide to a world that is different from the past one, with a present freedom to guide himself to a more weightless future that is cautioned by life’s inevitable error.

Post #1: Transcendental Preference

Which writer’s representation of nature do you prefer, and why? Of course, in talking about these representations, you should also talk about how each writer defines the influence of nature on the individual mind/heart/soul/etc. Which writer’s ideas and words resonate more with you?

 

Henry David Thoreau used much of his writings to tackle topics such as self-reliance, nature, and the importance of consciousness. He used these to truly find, for himself, where life’s meaning is truly found. Thoreau left all he knew, though everything he knew was but a brief distance away, to go and live in a cabin in the woods while he contemplated the real-world applications of self-reliance. He lived off of what he grew and he lived meagerly in comparison to the less enlightened individuals of his generation. Thoreau believed the relationship between man and nature was one where man relied on nature to live, and thus should respect it utterly, rather than the commonly held view that man is wholly dominant over nature. He viewed man as but an alternate representation of nature; merely another root planted, extended, and displayed through nature’s grace. This deep root that man has with nature is what guided Thoreau to seek such communion with it, which was not altogether unlike Emerson’s reasons.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau’s contemporary, friend, and transcendental predecessor, took on a similar goal with his writings. Emerson also delved into meaning and where that was found in nature. Emerson valued solitude and retiring oneself from time to time, away from the daily workings of life, into nature to observe its masterpiece. His view, however, deviated from Thoreau’s in that Emerson acknowledged natures connection to God. He saw creation as an extension of God’s handiwork and even posited that it was created in the way it was so as to give man a perpetual sense of the sublime. He noted in Nature that the stars are always present and yet, untouchable. Emerson’s meaning in nature was found in that communion with nature but with the distinction that this communion with nature is what transcends a person above this world and connects him to God. At one point he says, “[among nature] I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.” Being as a transparent eyeball, as Emerson stated in his view, allows him to see all of creation as intended, with every trifle and distraction being but mere inconsequential noise in the background.

Though Thoreau does have some intriguing views of nature and valid points to the meaning of nature, I would say that I lean a bit more towards Emerson’s view of nature, albeit not entirely on his side. Man of course, does have a connection with God through nature. Man having been created from the dust of the ground, as mentioned in Genesis, would most definitely support that connection. Man, in the Creator’s image, is of course an undeniable part of nature and of God; both being extensions of His hand. I also agree with Emerson’s view that nature serves a purpose of creating, within man, a perpetual sense of the sublime when he peers out and truly takes it in. Both men’s views, though different, give credence to the importance of communing with nature in respect for it, which is our responsibility as a part of it.