Monday, February 7, 2011

Finally Finished Walden

It's never a good sign when a book takes me several months to read. I picked up Walden, by Henry David Thoreau in oh, say... November?

Thoreau was a transcendentalist. I linked to its definition on Wikipedia, but if you don't have time to go there - think Oprah, but without so much fortune and a glossy magazine. Come to think of it, what I wouldn't give to be able to witness a conversation between Thoreau and Oprah. It is for sure that she would have asked him to appear on her show (were he alive) - given his transcendentalist beliefs and cherry-on-topped by his anti-slavery writing and lecturing. I can just imagine her applauding his simple life in a tiny abode on Walden Pond.

I don't have the intellect to comment much on Walden. If I had to sum up my problem with it - it was largely boring. When I was paying attention, I loved some of what he wrote, and found it challenging. But out of 224 pages, I was only truly engaged for about half.

Walden was never required reading in any of my high school or college classes, yet I recognized many lines - and I wonder where I heard them before.

If you're not already friends with Thoreau, acquaint yourself here with a few of his thoughts that stood out to me
"I should not talk so much about myself if there were any body else whom I knew as well." -p.5
"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." -p.8
"None can be an impartial or wise observer of human life but from the vantage ground of what we should call voluntary poverty." -p.13
"It is an interesting question how far men would retain their relative rank if they were divested of their clothes." -p.19
"I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes." -p.19
 "We no longer camp as for a night, but have settled down on earth and forgotten heaven." -p.29
 "We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate." -p.39
[Too long to quote here, but he wrote insightfully on "news" (-p.67) and his critique is scathing and (to me) laugh-out-loud funny.]
"I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now." -p.217
"Shall a man go and hang himself because he belongs to the race of pygmies, and not be the biggest pygmy that he can? Let every one mind his own business, and endeavor to be what he was made." -p.219
"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." -p.219
"I sat at a table where were rich food and wine in abundance, and obsequious attendance, but sincerity and truth were not; and I went away hungry from the inhospitable board." -p.222
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