Walden - Episode 2

by Saul Edmonds
Walden Bird 2 - web.jpg

Here continues our winding path through the book ‘Walden’ by Henry David Thoreau.

As stated last week - ‘Walden’ is a poetic review of the simple life courtesy of Thoreau’s personal experiment in living as a semi recluse on Walden Pond.

For Thoreau, simplicity through self-sufficiency promotes a keenly progressive self awareness. Life is best when lived close to nature.

Thoreau comments frequently on the lack of substance proffered by ‘modern’ society (note that ‘Walden’ was first published in 1854). Routines of living operate as empty constructs. People are artificially constrained by technology/ industry and are divorced from the natural world.

The quotes listed below for comment are again from the first chapter, entitled ‘Economy’.

Quote 1 : ‘Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate.’

Thoreau disdains popular institutions as a corruption of natural law. Self reflection, self assessment - true knowledge of self - is the essential foundation of life and thus will dictate outcomes.

Quote 2 : ‘A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work.’

In ‘Economy’ Thoreau discovers that few material possessions are required for happiness. Mostly, labours are endured for little purpose and they steal the greater part of a lifetime. Thoreau comments that games cannot be truly enjoyed, as they are a mere addendum to the empty workaday and serve as proof that work does not provide the spiritual sustenance we need.

Quote 3 : ‘All change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every instant.’

When living close to nature cycles, seasons and change itself is much on view. Thoreau is optimistic that society too is subject to the possibility change.

Walden is an out of print book and is available for free download.

This chrysalis of action and intent.

More next week.

by Saul Edmonds