Monday, February 11, 2008

Thoreau's Walden

Since I am suffering sever writers block today I am going to suggest every one read Thoreau's Walden.

Thoreau's Walden

"When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months."

With these words, Henry David Thoreau began the tale of his experiment of simple living at Walden Pond. Over the course of the next three hundred-odd pages, Thoreau outlined his philosophy of life, politics, and nature, laying the foundation for a secure place in the canon of great American writers. Although Walden enjoyed only moderate success in Thoreau's lifetime, his experiment at the pond would spark considerable interest in the years to come. The book has inspired other young people to follow his example and retire to a lonely spot--even if only in imagination--to ponder the world and their place in it. Thoreau's words expressed the concerns of many of his contemporaries as industrialization and war permanently altered the world around them, just as they struck a chord in a generation of young people in the 1960s and 1970s who opposed the modern military-industrial complex and sought peace and simplicity in their lives. For many, Walden has served as a touchstone.

In the years following Thoreau's death in 1862, his sister and his friends undertook the responsibility of editing his work. Posthumous editions of his previously unpublished or partially published works were produced by Ticknor & Fields and Houghton Mifflin, and articles about Thoreau and reviews of his writings appeared in newspapers and magazines. Thoreau's life and work have continued to provoke and inspire, and there are almost as many different opinions as there are readers. Which view of Thoreau is most accurate: The dour hermit of Walden Woods? The environmental guru? The antislavery crusader? The irresponsible layabout? The pacifist? The pantheist? The prophet? None suffices to represent Thoreau by itself; all find support in Walden.

Quotes from Walden

"He lived in all respects so compactly and preparedly, that, if an enemy take the town, he can, like the old philosopher, walk out the gate empty-handed without anxiety."

"Most men appear never to have considered what a house is, and are actually needlessly poor all their lives because they think that they must have such a one as their neighbors have."

“Cultivate poverty like garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends.”

“It would be some advantage to live a primitive and frontier life, though in the midst of an outward civilization, if only to learn what are the gross necessaries of life and what methods have been taken to obtain them; or even to look over the old day-books of the merchants, to see what it was that men most commonly bought at the stores, what they stored, that is, what are the grossest groceries. For the improvements of ages have had but little influence on the essential laws of man's existence; as our skeletons, probably, are not to be distinguished from those of our ancestors.”

“Most of the luxuries, and many of the so called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have ever lived a more simple and meager life than the poor.”

"I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes."

“For more than five years I maintained myself thus solely by the labor of my hands, and I found, that by working about six weeks in a year, I could meet all the expenses of living. The whole of my winters, as well as most of my summers, I had free and clear for study.”

“I am convinced, both by faith and experience, that to maintain one's self on this earth is not a hardship but a pastime, if we live simply and wisely."

"As long as possible live free and uncommitted."

"Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand."

This book is a bible to those seeking a simplified life. I highly recommend it.



theotherryan said...

Writers block happens from time to time. Consider keeping a few ideas (need not be written up) for the times it strikes.

judyofthewoods said...

Nice to revisit Walden. A lot of good, timeless wisdom there. Another one of my favorite preper books is Robinson Crusoe, which is supposed to have been based on a true story. As someone who lives a bit of a hermit life and created my home by hand on my own, I can relate to a lot of tings he talks about. One of the passages that stick in my mind is when he describes how long it takes him to cut one log for his palisade (I think its called stockade in America?). Outside of industrialized instant gratification time has a different pace. Fifteen years after buying my piece of land with masses still left to do, I know that too well!