Walden and Tom Cruise

GunCat

Watching the Tom Cruise movie Oblivion it struck me how closely Tom’s utopian rural escape resembled Thoreau’s Walden cabin. The movie is an entertaining sci-fi involving aliens and human extinction, where Tom periodically leaves “real life” to spend time alone in an idyllic cabin in the woods by a pond. Living in a cabin in the woods was never really part of the American Dream. Surprising to see Hollywood promoting this ideal, it can be certain the motives are financial and historical. I have read Walden many times over the years it raises many interesting questions about how we live.

Here is a passage from the letter by Lon Snowden to President Obama concerning his son Edward Snowden (Whistleblower) July 26, 2013.

Civil disobedience is not the first, but the last option. Henry David Thoreau wrote with profound restraint in Civil Disobedience: “If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.”

Thoreau’s moral philosophy found expression during the Nuremberg trials in which “following orders” was rejected as a defence. Indeed, military law requires disobedience to clearly illegal orders.

A dark chapter in America’s World War II history would not have been written if the then United States Attorney General had resigned rather than participate in racist concentration camps imprisoning 120,000 Japanese American citizens and resident aliens.

Civil disobedience to the Fugitive Slave Act and Jim Crow laws provoked the end of slavery and the modern civil rights revolution.

full letter

Here is a quote from Walden

“It is a surprising and memorable, as well as valuable experience, to be lost in the woods any time. Often in a snow storm, even by day, one will come out upon a well-known road and yet find it impossible to tell which way leads to the village. Though he knows that he has travelled it a thousand times, he cannot recognize a feature in it, but it is as strange to him as if it were a road in Siberia. By night, of course, the perplexity is infinitely greater. In our most trivial walks, we are constantly, though unconsciously, steering like pilots by certain well-known beacons and head-lands, and if we go beyond our usual course we still carry in our minds the bearing of some neighboring cape; and not till we are completely lost, or turned round, – for a man lost, – do we appreciate the vastness and strangeness of Nature. Every man has to learn the points of compass again as often as he awakes, whether from sleep or any abstraction. Not till we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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