Walden

By Henry David Thoreau

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A book of thoughts and insights written by a man who chose the solitude of the woods in Walden to live and learn. My favourite chapters and words:

WHERE I LIVED AND WHAT I LIVED FOR 

-on simplifying and getting to the essence of life.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…”

“When we are unhurried and wise, we perceive the only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence, -that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of reality. This is always exhilarating and sublime.”

“Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe, through Paris and London, through New York and Boston and Concord, through church and state, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This is, and no mistake.”

READING

-on the virtues of reading classics

“For what are classics but the noblest recorded thoughts of man? They are the only oracles which are not decayed, and there are such answers to the most modern inquiry in them as Delphi and Dodona never gave.”

“I think that having learned out letters we should read the best that is in literature, and not be forever repeating our a b abs, and words of one syllable, in the fourth or fifth classes, sitting on the lowest and foremost form all our lives.”

“The same questions that disturb and puzzle and confound us have in their turn occured to all the wise men; not one has been omitted; and each has answered them, according to his ability, by his words and his life.”

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SOLITUDE

-observations on the current nature of socializing 

“With thinking we may be beside ourselves in a sane sense. By conscious effort of the mind we can stand aloof from actions and their consequences; and all things, good and bad, go by us like a torrent.”

“Solitude is not measured by the miles of space that intervene between a man and his fellows.”

“Society is commonly too cheap. We meet at very short intervals, not having had time to acquire any new value for each other. We meet at meals three times a day, and give each other a new taste of that old musty cheese that we are. We have had to agree on a certain set of rules; called etiquette and politeness, to make this frequent meeting tolerable and that we need not come to open war. We meet at the post-office, and at the sociable, and about the fireside every night; we live thick and are in each other’s way, and stumble over one another, and I think that we thus lose some respect for one another.”

“Certainly less frequency would suffice for all important and hearty communications.”

waldens-pond

Walden Pond

THE PONDS

-his vivid recount of the appearances of the ponds over the years

“A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature. The fluviatile (produced by river) trees next the shore are the slender eyelashes which fringe it, and the wooded hills and cliffs around are its overhanging brows.”

HIGHER LAWS

-meditations on spirituality and purity of man

“Our whole life is startling moral. There is never an instant’s truce between virtue and vice. Goodness is the only investment that never fails.”

“We are conscious of an animal in us, which awakens in proportion as our higher nature slumbers.”

“Every man is the builder of a temple, called his body, to the god he worships, after a style purely his own, nor can he get off by hammering marble instead. We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and blood and bones. Any nobleness begins at once to refine a man’s features, any meanness or sensuality to imbrute them.”

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