The good-looking one, the one in need, the one that almost was
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Jim Ralston lives in Allegany County, Maryland, near a religious campground with a revival pavilion like the one his family went to in his childhood. He sits there by himself from time to time. Ralston teaches English at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College in Martinsburg, West Virginia.
More than any other commonplace notion, Thoreau attacked (largely through satire) his fellows’ commonplace notions about work. “Economy” is the first and largest chapter of Walden, and Thoreau gives the subject such primary consideration because he saw work consuming people’s lives before they had much of a chance to live, before they had enough time to reflect on the relationship of work to life for themselves. To Thoreau, the problem of finding one’s right work and integrating it into other proper demands on one’s life was a challenge that needed to be tackled early and with great energy if young adults weren’t going to step blindly into traps that were indeed much easier to step into than to get out of.
The question becomes, how do we become aware of the limitations culture imposes on us from inside those limitations? How do we see through blind eyes? How do we begin to unclothe ourselves to return to our original nakedness, when we are taught that the clothes are us?
I am more and more convinced that only emptiness is creative. On all levels this is true. To be full of tradition is to have no room for the new. To be full of responsibility is to have no room for play. To be full of activity is to have no room for reflection. To be full of self is to have no room to receive another.