Monday, June 8, 2009

The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail

Today I went to Central Park and I just finished reading The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail. It is mostly about a non practicing religious man who refuses to pay his taxes in a time of the Mexican American war. He went to jail for one night (his aunt bails him out, and he is set free in the morning), but during that night he reflects upon the events of his life.

The central theme of this book was the way a man should think. When I say man, I mean mankind. Many times in classes we are taught what to think, but seldom are people taught how to think. Nowadays when students watch hours of 2 minute commercials, and with our materialistic society, it is difficult to truly spend some time contemplating the real value of things. Thoreau was a naturalist (by trade) but in the book he was accused of being an atheist (YAY!) and a transcendentalist. I prefer the former, but at least transcendentalists were thinking about life a bit more than the normal Christians were. The ideas of transcendentalism came from Harvard University and the church.

Thoreau spent the night in jail for not paying his taxes during a time of war. He refused to have his tax dollars pay for rifles and bullets. This is interesting because today the U.S. government gains a lot more taxes than it did in the 1800's. I suppose it the government might listen to someone who pays taxes but is a pacifist, and requests that his specific tax dollars not go directly towards funding a war. Obama seems like the kind of guy who might understand that position. But then again this is the U.S. government we are talking about here.

But the idea is definitely interesting. If the recession got bad enough, there wouldn't be enough tax dollars to fund a war. There isn't even enough tax dollars to fund the war currently. This is interesting to me because these are American dollars. I believe a polls should be taken of the American people (possibly during the 2010 census) to ask them if they agree with their tax dollars being spent to kill off Iraqi and American soldiers in this war. I know many of the people who are actually being killed are terrorists, but some of them are actually civilians too. If the Christian majority in the U.S. were truly Christian, they would most certainly stand their ground on the idea that we shall not kill.

Of course, the Christians in our country love to bear the name "Christian" without any of the rights of responsibilities of being Christian. This is fine. I mean, as long as it is not THEIR children dying right?

Thoreau also has an interesting idea, in the middle of his novel, which intrigued me. As a naturalist, he believed that nature was the ultimate teacher. That no matter how much one could learn in a classroom, it could never be more than one could learn actually studying out in the wild. After studying Sarracenia purpurea at UVM and Harvard Forest for the last 4 years, I definately agree. The information I gained in the field definately stayed with me better than the information I learned in a classroom. However, I must admit that in the classrooms I obtained a more diverse education. While I would have preffered to take all of my classes in biology, some classes like Introduction To Fiction, Introduction to Poetry, and Creative Writing were definately worthwhile.

I read The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail in two days. It is a quick play, which does not occur in chronological order. I recommend that people read this book now, in a time of war. Overall it probably will not take most people a long time (depending on how fast you read, it will probably take you 3 hours tops). However the message is important. As long as we Americans are funding the war with our tax dollars, we are directly responsible for the war in Iraq. This makes me glad that I am currently unemployed. However I like socialist organizations, like the public library, fire department, post office, and police. I like having them around (and paying for them with my tax dollars!). So if you do have a job (so I can contribute to society), perhaps you wouldnt mind looking over my resume.


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