In Walden, what does Thoreau mean when he said "in wildness is the preservation of the world"?
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Thoreau here is returning to one of his principal themes, which can be summarised as follows: humans need wildness in order to ensure their survival. Thoreau saw humans as being placed in a critical relationship with nature, yet the problem with humans is that their civilisation and society often seems to involve the destruction of the untamed wilderness of nature and its systematical ordering. In the beauty of wild nature, Thoreau saw the source of the human spirit of independence and self-reliance, which were necessary in order for humans to keep on surviving and growing as a species. Thus, as he argues here, the wildness of nature actually contains the secret of the preservation of the world.
Put in other words, the wildness of nature helps us to remind ourselves of how we have to be independent and self-reliant in order to survive in this world. The wildness of nature is a necessary antidote to the various evils of society which detracts from these important values and encourages us to grow soft as humans.
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