A while ago I started reading the classic Reveries of a Solitary Walker by french writer and philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In this ‘reverie’ Rousseau describes how he left society to try to find himself in nature. It was one of those works of which I was not sure if I would like it. It turns out, I loved it. It is definitely a book I would recommend, because it is both as funny as it is sad. So, I thought I’d share one of the many great parts of this work.
This particular part is from the seventh walk (instead of chapters, this work is divided into ‘walks’), in which Rousseau is on a botanical expedition on the hillside of a Swiss mountain, where he finds all kinds of plants. During this expedition he is daydreaming about the place being unknown to the whole universe, he is so sure he makes the following comparison:
“’Doubtless I am the first mortal to set foot in this place.’ I considered myself well-nigh a second Columbus.”
Unfortunately, this state of mind is interrupted by a familiar noise:
“Surprised and intrigued, I got up, pushed through a thicket of undergrowth in the direction of the noise, and in a hollow twenty yards from the very place where I had thought to be the first person to tread, I saw a stocking mill.”
This made me kind of sad, because the ‘Columbus’ part made me laugh: I could really See Rousseau walking happily through the mountains, pretending to be the next Columbus. But the second part clearly showed how hard it might be to escape from (modern) society. Here he finds himself in a perfect state of solitude: to be interfered by a stocking mill.