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I’m not the most “outdoorsy” person. I’m willing to go “glamping,” but I prefer the modern amenities and insect-free peace of a hotel room, condo, or cabin.
I do love nature, though.
Stargazing on a mountain at midnight, catching a meteor shower lying back on the sands of a beach, hiking, marveling at waterfalls, mountains, oceans, and all things belonging to “the great outdoors.” I find peace in nature, away from rushing civilization.
In many ways, I’ve always considered myself a transcendentalist. Like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, I believe in the equality of all people, regardless of gender or race, and the importance of self-reliance and stubborn individuality under the squelching force of conformity. Nature must be respected for it’s in nature where we can tune out the noise of the world, finding a peaceful space of natural beauty where we can tap into something greater than ourselves–a unity, a spirituality, a momentary rest.
Living on Walden Pond gave Thoreau a welcome relief from the daily grind, and I mean that literally. His family operated a pencil-making business, and before he moved to Walden Pond, Thoreau’s job was to grind the graphite and make the pencils.
While many of the first Transcendentalists only wrote about their philosophy, Thoreau took the ideas a step further and put the philosophy into practice on Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. In the spring of 1845, 27-year-old Thoreau began chopping wood to build his now famous cabin where he lived and wrote for two years before leaving it forever in 1847. Sequestered alone in the quiet of nature, Thoreau wrote a series of 18 essays which would eventually make up his book: Walden, or Life in the Woods.
So, what was Thoreau’s main message in Walden? It’s hard to pinpoint just one, but Thoreau was ultimately searching for and writing about the meaning of life and the importance of finding one’s identity, purpose, and happiness.
47 Walden Quotes by Henry David Thoreau (with page numbers)
1. “I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well.” pg. 3
2. “He has no time to be anything but a machine.” pg. 6
3. “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.” pg. 7
4. “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” pg. 7
5. “It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true today may turn out to be falsehood tomorrow, mere smoke of opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would sprinkle fertilizing rain on their fields. What old people say you cannot do, you try and find that you can. Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new.” pgs. 6-7
6. “Here is life, an experiment to a great extent untried by me; but it does not avail me that they have tried it.” pg. 8
7. “The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?” pg. 9
8. “There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers.” pg. 12
9. “In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future, which is precisely the present moment; to toe that line.” pg. 14
10. “No man ever stood the lower in my estimation for having a patch in his clothes; yet I am sure that there is greater anxiety, commonly, to have fashionable, or at least clean and unpatched clothes, than to have a sound conscience.” pg. 18
11. “In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.” pg. 22
12. “It is the luxurious and dissipated who set the fashions which the herd so diligently follow.” pg. 30
13. “I had rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion.” pg. 30
14. “Are you one of the ninety-seven who fail, or the three who succeed?” pg. 31
15. “I would have each one be very careful to find out and pursue his own way, and not his father’s or his mother’s or his neighbor’s instead.” pg. 58
“Where I Lived, And What I Lived For”
16. “…for a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” pg. 68
17. “But I would say to my fellows, once for all, As long as possible live free and uncommitted. It makes but little difference whether you are committed to a farm or the county jail.” pg. 69
18. “To him whose elastic and vigorous thought keeps pace with the sun, the day is a perpetual morning. It matters not what the clocks say or the attitudes and labors of men. Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me.” pg. 74
19. “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.” pg. 75
20. “I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life” pg. 75
21. “If we are really dying, let us hear the rattle in our throats and feel cold in the extremities; if we are alive, let us go about our business. Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.” pg. 81
22. “but the adventurous student will always study classics, in whatever language they may be written and however ancient they may be. For what are the classics but the noblest recorded thoughts of man?” pg. 83
23. “Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.” pg. 85
24. “Will you be a reader, a student merely, or a seer? Read your fate, see what is before you, and walk on into futurity.” pg. 92
25. “I believe that men are generally still a little afraid of the dark, though the witches are all hung, and Christianity and candles have been introduced.” pg. 108
26. “I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” pg. 112
27. “You want room for your thoughts to get into sailing trim and run a course or two before they make their port.” pg. 116-117
28. “It is a surprising and memorable, as well as valuable experience, to be lost in the woods any time.” pg. 141
29. “…not till we are completely lost, or turned round–for a man needs only to be turned round once with his eyes shut in this world to be lost–do we appreciate the vastness and strangeness of nature.” pg. 141
30. “Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.” pg. 141
31. “But, wherever a man goes, men will pursue and paw him with their dirty institutions, and, if they can, constrain him to belong to their desperate, odd-fellow society.” pg. 142
32. “Nevertheless, of all the characters I have known, perhaps Walden wears best, and best preserves its purity…it is itself unchanged, the same water which my youthful eyes fell on; all the change is in me.” pg. 160
33. “If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal–that is your success.” pg. 180
34. “We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and blood and bones.” pg. 184
35. “for why should not a poet’s cat be winged as well as his horse?” pg. 194
36. “nothing can deter a poet, for he is actuated by pure love. Who can predict his comings and goings? His business calls him out at all hours, even when doctors sleep.” pg. 222
37. “We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us, like the grass which confesses the influence of the slightest dew that falls on it; and did not spend our time in atoning for the neglect of past opportunities, which we call doing our duty. We loiter in winter while it is already spring.” pg. 259
38. “Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it. We need the tonic of wildness–.” pg. 261
39. “Direct your eye right inward, and you’ll find a thousand regions in your mind yet undiscovered. Travel them, and be expert in home-cosmography.” pgs. 264-265
40. “I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one.” pg. 266
41. “I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” pg. 267
42. “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” pg. 267
43. “While England endeavors to cure the potato-rot, will not any endeavor to cure the brain-rot, which prevails so much more widely and fatally?” pg. 268
44. “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” pg. 269
45. “The faultfinder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is.” pg. 270
46. “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” pg. 273
47. “There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.” pg. 275
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