Accidental Luxury Found in Nature

In Economy, Thoreau explores the relationship between luxury through nature. I think it is fascinating that Thoreau considers the luxury of nature as an accidental discovery made by humans because often humans yearn for and seek to possess some form of luxury. It seems as though nature unknowingly provided humans a luxurious resource but to acquire it humans had to work for it. I believe luxury can only be attained by a limited number of individuals. However, Thoreau argues exclusivity of luxury can become inclusive. He illustrates this juxtaposition by focusing on one of earth’s most powerful elements, fire. Thoreau saw fire as a luxury because it was an unfamiliar and beneficial resource (Thoreau 114). But, he argues fire lost its status of luxury when it became a “present necessity to sit by it” (Thoreau 114). Thoreau alludes to this idea that luxury cannot be a necessity or enjoyed by humans. I find Thoreau’s definition of luxury contradictory to the Merriam Webster’s definition of luxury, which defines it as “something adding to pleasure or comfort but not absolutely necessary” and “an indulgence in something that provides pleasure, satisfaction, or ease” (Merriam Webster). It makes me wonder, can luxury be enjoyed by many or does it have to be accessible to some people and treated as a rarity?

One Reply to “Accidental Luxury Found in Nature”

  1. You bring up an interesting point, and that is the line between luxury and necessity. At what point does a luxury become so integrated in a society that it becomes a necessity? That, of course, brings also into question our definition of necessity, and this is, indeed, something Thoreau fixates on throughout his work. His effort to “live simply” is a direct accusation of our society lives. I think Thoreau would agree that we have more luxuries in our lives than necessities. Perhaps he might say our aggressive straying from simplicity changes the way we view necessity, and this accidental luxury found in nature might really be a cornerstone need that we have so-long neglected while chasing frivolity.

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