What is it that makes it so hardsometimes to determine whither wewill walk? I believe that there is asubtitle magnetism in Nature, which,if we unconsciously yield to it, willdirect us aright. It is not indifferentto us, which way we walk. There isa right way; but we are very liablefrom heedlessness and stupidity totake the wrong one. We would faintake that walk, never yet taken byus through this actual world, whichis perfectly symbolical of the path,which we love to travel in the inte-rior and ideal world; and sometimes,no doubt, we nd it difcult to chooseour direction, because it does not yetexist distinctly in our idea.When I go out of the house for awalk, uncertain as yet whither I willbend my steps, and submit myself to my instinct to decide for me, Ind, strange and whimsical as it mayseem, that I nally and inevitablysettle south-west, toward some par-ticular wood or meadow or desertedpasture or hill in that direction. Myneedle is slow to settle — varies afew degrees, and does not alwayspoint due southwest, it is true, and ithas good authority for this variation,but it always settles between westand south-south-west. The future liesthat way to me, and the earth seemsmore unexhausted and richer on thatside. The outline which would boundmy walks, would be, not a circle, buta parabola, or rather like one of thosecommentary orbits, which have beenthought to be non-returning curves,in this case opening westward, inwhich my house occupies the placeof the sun. I turn round and roundirresolute sometimes for a quarter of an hour, until I decide for the thou-sandth time, that I will walk intothe southwest or west. Eastward Igo only by force; but westward I gofree. Thither no business leads me.It is hard for me to believe that Ishall nd fair landscapes, or sufcientWildness and Freedom behind theeastern horizon. I am not excitedby the prospect of a walkthither; but I believe thatthe forest which I seein the western horizonstretches uninterrupt-edly towards the settingsun, and that there areno towns nor cities in itof enough consequence to disturbme. Let me live where I will, on thisside is the city, on that the wilder-ness, and ever I am leaving the citymore and more, and withdrawinginto the wilderness. I should not layso much stress on this fact, if I didnot believe that something like thisis the prevailing tendency of mycountrymen. I must walk towardOregon, and not toward Europe. Andthat way the nation is moving, and Imay say that mankind progress fromeast to west. Within a few years wehave witnessed the phenomenon of asoutheastward migration, in the set-tlement of Australia; but this affectsus as a retrograde movement, and, judging from the moral and physi-cal character of the rst generationof Australians, has not yet proved asuccessful experiment. The easternTartars think that there is nothingwest beyond Tibet. “The World ends
“The average slumdwellerconsumes less and has a muchsmaller global footprint than theaverage suburbanite.”
dwell / OCT 09dwell / OCT 09
At home in the poorest urban areas around the world
Photos from left: a manat home in Jakarta; thedirty feet of a youngKenyan slumdweller.
there”, say they, “beyond there isnothing but a shore less sea.” It isunmitigated east where they live.We go eastward to realize history,and study the works of art and lit-erature, retracing the steps of therace, — we go westward as into thefuture, with a spirit of enterprise andadventure. The Atlantic is a Letheanstream, in our passage over which wehave had an opportunity to forget theold world and its institutions. If wedo not succeed this time, there is per-haps one more chan for the race leftbefore it arrives on the banks of theStyx; and that is in the Lethe of thePacic, which is three times as wide.I know not how signicant it is, orhow far it is an evidence of singular-ity, that an individual should thusconsent in his pettiest walk, with thegeneral movement of the race; but Iknow that something akin to the mi-gratory instinct in birds and quadru-peds, — which, in some instances, isknown to have affected the squirreltribe, impelling them to a general andmysterious movement, in which theywere seen, say some, crossing thebroadest rivers, each on its particularchip, with its tail raised for a sail, andbridging narrower streams with theirdead, — that something like the furor
by Henry Thoreau
The word ‘slum’ holds anegative implication inour society, but manyvigorously oppose thisdescription of theircommunities. Whatcan we learn from theway others live?