Henry David Thoreau

Virtual Location: Walden Pond

As today marks the 158th anniversary of the passing of Henry David Thoreau, I will be rereading “Walden” and his essay, “Resistance to Civil Government.” These are available at <https://www.gutenberg.org/files/205/205-h/205-h.htm>

As I ponder the ways of solitude, my memory reaches back fifty years to my studies of his writings. His book “Walden” offers insights on how to live a deliberate 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 practice 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, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”

Henry David Thoreau

Not only his thoughts on nature, but his essay, “Resistance to Civil Government” helped me to formulate my own early thoughts on politics and the pact between a person and his government. This was not just speculative philosophy. You have to remember that this was the 1960’s, the draft was in force, and the government did not look kindly upon those who questioned its authority.

Another memory comes to surface from my hitchhiking days when I wore a button with Henry David Thoreau’s portrait. I recall one hippy chick who recognized it immediately. We had an interesting intellectual weekend. 

Here’s to you, Mr. Thoreau. You helped to make the world a different place.