Quest for Wisdom: Two Approaches
Two approaches to the “Quest for Wisdom” that I enjoyed are Walden, by Henry David Thoreau and Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl. Both of the authors took similar approaches by using narration of a main segment of their lives to explain their philosophy and how they arrived at their conclusions. Though both conclusions represent individualism they are strikingly different. Thoreau values the doctrines of Transcendentalism, seeking ones inner self through Nature, while Frankl Existentialism values the interpretation of individual experiences and responsibility of ones actions.
Thoreau spent years building his approach and developing his own beliefs. Born in Concord, Massachusetts, in July 1817, he developed an early love of solitude and communion with nature. He studied English, history, philosophy, and four different modern languages at Harvard College and graduated in 1837. From 1837 to 1840 he tried jobs unsuccessfully as school teacher and tutor. From 1841 to 1843 he took a job as a gardener and handyman where he was inspired by the exploration and writing about spiritual relationships between humanity and nature, and the ideas of Ralph Emerson. On July 4, 1845 Thoreau started an experiment on Emerson’s land at Walden Pond and spent two years watching, writing, and understanding the power of nature. The only way Thoreau could encounter a relationship with nature was to independently bond with the way of the woods, streams, ponds, and animals.
This does not mean that to gain wisdom from Thoreau’s approach you would abandon your life and live in a cabin in the woods and commune with nature. His statement to man seeking a similar life, was: “I would not have any one adopt my mode of living on any account; for, beside that before he has fairly learned it I may have found out another for myself, 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, and not his father's or his mother's or his neighbor's instead. The youth may build or plant or sail, only let him not be hindered from doing that which he tells me he would like to do. It is by a mathematical point only that we are wise, as the sailor or the fugitive slave keeps the polestar in his eye; but that is sufficient guidance for all our life.” (P158 Thoreau) I believe instead through out his writings, Thoreau was trying to suggest that a person be more self-reliant and self-sufficient. That people gain wealth in personal experience and the beauty of Nature. Through self-exploration and discovery they seek the truth and draw inner strength from it.
Viktor Frankl began his education early in the study of psychology. He finished his high...