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Chapter IV: Sounds
In this chapter, Thoreau observes that mere reading and contemplation do not suffice for all of human experience. There is much to be said for real-life experiences. Experience is by itself the best mode through which one learns the truth of life. This observation leads Thoreau to share some of the experiences he had at Walden Pond and the subsequent truths he has learned from those experiences.
Thoreau begins by stating that during the first months at Walden Pond, he has very little time to read; however, he found that by simply listening to and observing the natural world all around him, he was a witness to some of the best action that any book could offer. The wild animals, the vegetation, and the weather became characters in the great drama of Nature. The sounds of distant church bells, the mooing of cows and the songs of birds were like a natural symphony. Though to an observer it might seem that Thoreau was idling his time away, he was actually deep in meditation and contemplation about the meanings of the things he was observing. The amazing thing was that he did not live by the clock or the calendar, but by his own schedule of self-realization.
As Thoreau thought more about trains and commerce, he realized that not all things about the business world are unpleasant. Trains allow a person to travel and experience new things. They also accelerate trade and encourage growth in towns and cities. Thoreau does not object to the growth of his town and expresses the hopeful wish for its further development, for he is challenged by new people and things.