Thursday, January 13, 2011

Henry David Thoreau - An Abundant Source of Wisdom

I had heard of Henry David Thoreau's classic, Walden (1854), while growing up; but I first discovered it in graduate school. Thoreau (1817-1862) was a prolific writer, but he was largely unappreciated during his lifetime. He was an early American transcendentalist philosopher and one of the first naturalists. He advocated the abolition of slavery all his life, and his book, Civil Disobedience, informed the thinking of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

Walden is his account of his solitary life in a cabin on Walden Pond, a 60-acre lake located in Concord, Massachusetts. It's written like a personal journal that collects his experiences and thoughts during the two years, two months and two days he remained on the pond. To give the book structure, he reframed his story as the four seasons of one year. Written in his later years, it contains most of his contrarian opinions about religion, business, government and culture.

Since his death, he has been one of the most often-quoted figures in American literary history. My favorites...

On FOCUS - "You must not only aim right, but draw the bow with all your might."

On FORGIVENESS - “One cannot too soon forget his errors and misdemeanors; for to dwell upon them is to add to the offense.”

On FRIENDSHIP - "We must have infinite faith in each other. If we have not, we must never let it leak out that we have not."

On INTEGRITY - “He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

On LOYALTY - "Be true to your work, your word, and your friend."

On PROACTIVITY - “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.”

On SELF-AWARENESS - "Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after."

On SELF-DEVELOPMENT - “We should treat our minds as innocent and ingenuous children whose guardians we are—be careful what objects and subjects we thrust on their attention.”

On SELF-ESTEEM - “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.”

On SPIRITUALITY - “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”

On SUCCESS - "Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it"

On VISION - “In the long run, men hit only what they aim at.”

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .


Unknown said...

I really liked this post because I'm about to read Thoreau. I bought Walden after Christmas.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Thoreau and Walden changed my life when I encountered them in a high school English class. It was the first thing I got really excited about in school. I also have a special appreciation for his wise friend, Emerson.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, always a nice shot in the arm (and heart) to hear this Master.