"Meet Mr. Thoreau"
"What are you doing now?" he asked.
"Do you keep a journal?"
So I make my first entry today...
-Henry David Thoreau,
October 22, 1837
Above appears the first entry that Thoreau made in his new journal, after the journal-keeping idea was suggested to him by his mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson. By the time that Thoreau died in 1862, he had written over two million words in a journal that runs to 14 volumes. His journals were filled with his private thoughts as well as his observations about society and nature. Scholars agree that the material in his journals provided the basis for much of his poetry, lectures, and essays. His regular entries were his compost and topsoil.
Almost all the writing you will be required to write this semester will be journal entries. They should contain your reactions to his essays, aphorisms drawn from his work, as well as your own related thoughts about life, nature, and society. A journal is a great place to reflect, to mull, to ruminate, to observe,
and to take a walk or two around your thoughts and perceptions.
I will soon explain to you how many entries you need to do, and by when.
For the teacher, there is nothing more exciting than reading a journal which is authentic, honest, and thoughtful. There is nothing more pointless than reading one which is written mechanically and lacks heart.
Thoreau said it best: "Write often, [and] write upon a thousand themes, rather than long at a time"......A journal is "a book that shall contain a record of all your joy, your ecstasy."
All written material © Bill Schechter, 2016
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