Of course one should not expect that all of Rousseau’s Reveries are very interesting. For me walk 6 was again quite boring. By reading Walk 7 I was able to recognize again a lot of myself. Clear from this part is that Jean-Jacques has not been active as an amateur botanist his whole life. They were more active times and time he hardly didn’t do any botany. In fact he become fascinated by the flora as an adult.
From this reverie it is clear that at least he considered other occupations as an amateur naturalist. First I have to say I am always careful with the word ‘amateur’. Far too often the word isn’t used in a positive way. In this case I just mean that Rousseau didn’t make a living as botanist or was not full time active. Darwin, of course, wasn’t really a salaryman, but as he was definitely full time active as a naturalist, I don’t want to call him an amateur. From this essay you may at least draw the conclusion that he considered to study birds and mammals or insects. It is a pleasure to see that he even mentioned ‘flies’!
I think I have been studying flies more or less seriously from 1982, so I am study Diptera for 33 years now. Only between 1986 and 1989 I more or less stopped collecting as I wanted to give all my attention to my study chemistry, but in 1990 I know I was collecting again quite fanatically soldierflies in the park behind the flat, where we lived. In the years before 1982 I was doing all kind of things in nature: birding, studying dragonflies, studying spiders. And even in my boarding school time I was fascinated by nature. There are a lot of stories about this in my family.
But this was obviously not the case with Jean-Jacques. He is here and there using words I will never use when I try to describe my passion for entomology.”Stinking corpses, livid running flesh, blood, repellent intestines, horrible skeletons, pestilential vapours! Believe me, that is not the place where Jean-Jacques will go looking for amusement.” I’d never, never, never use the word ‘amusement’ when discussing entomology. One may ask “what is it then?”. It is everything for me, but not amusement. There has never been a second that I thought: why not study mollusks instead of flies? Yes, I have very often thought that I need 10 lives, because I also would like to study other fly families, or barklice, or pseudoscorpions or even completely other groups as lichen, but never give up dipterology.
Another difference between Rousseau and myself is that botany was for him a way to escape from society. Again in this essay he is mentioning his problems with so called enemies. As I said before I looks a bit too miserable to me, but this having said, certainly he fled from unwanted company by joining collecting trips. Possibly I am as misanthropic as Jean-Jacques, but for me the excursions in nature or my long hours in my study are not a way to escape company. The fact that you are often alone in the forests or moors for collecting flies is just a pleasant extra joy.
But let for a while forget everything what Jean-Jacques writes about being a naturalist in general or a botanist in particular. He writes many words about it, but if you put this aside for a moment, the most important things he says in the beginning of the essay: ‘I have no other rule of conduct than always to follow freely my natural leanings’. When I read this I thought immediately: ‘I have no other rule than to be authentic!’. When reading walk 3 I had to think of Kierkegaard, while reading the opening of the essay about the 7th walk I had to think about a later philosopher, namely Heidegger. It would be nice to see whether something have been written in the past about the influence of Rousseau on Heidegger.