How much do I want to read more? 7/10

Do we own our house or do the house own us?
Is modern life modern slavery?
I feel less alone, thinking Thoreau considered small talks with other people vain. Even elderly people failed to teach him any valuable lessons. "I love to be alone, I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.".
Isn't it sad and beautiful at the same time? It means his standards were high, he couldn't live with "fake relationship", he was craving for truth and real feelings.
When you think about it, isn't it hard to have meaningful moments with people that transcend the self, that are truly meaningful? I surely don't know how to introduce such moment with people around me, even if I crave for it.

He was a true minimalist before it became trendy.
He relates why he threw some ornaments: "I was terrified to find that they required to be dusted daily".
"I would rather sit in the open air, for no dust gathers on the grass, unless where man has broken ground."
Did anyone ever notice nature is not dusty?

"I have lived some thirty years on this planet," Thoreau says boldly, "and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors. They have told me nothing, and probably cannot tell me anything, to the purpose."


[quote, Thoreau]
I stand in awe of my body, this matter to which I am bound has become so strange to me. I fear not spirits, ghosts, of which I am one . . . but I fear bodies, I tremble to meet them. What is this Titan that has possession of me? Talk of mysteries!— Think of our life in nature,—daily to be shown matter, to come into contact with it,—rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! the solid earth! the actual world! the common sense! Contact! Contact! Who are we? where are we?

Thoreau warns us that the outward aspect of his life may be "no more I than it is you." He boasts of having the capacity to stand as remote from himself as from another. He is both actor and spectator. He views himself as a participant in Time as if he were a kind of fiction—"a work of the imagination only."

We know with certainty of the historical man, born 12 July 1817, Concord, Massachusetts, and who died 6 May 1862, Concord, Massachusetts; what lies between is a mystery

Whether he writes with oneiric precision of thawing earth, or a ferocious war between red and black ants, or the primeval beauty of Mt. Katahdin in Maine, or in angry defense of the martyred John Brown ("I do not wish to kill or be killed but I can foresee circumstances in which both of these things would be by me unavoidable")

Always Thoreau tells us, You must change your life. Where his fellow Transcendentalists spoke of self-reliance as a virtue Thoreau actively practiced it, and gloried in it—"Sometimes, when I compare myself with other men, it seems as if I were more favored by the gods than they"; where most writers secretly feel superior to their contemporaries Thoreau is blunt, provok- ing—"The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad." Yet his own position is fre- quently ambiguous, and even what he meant by Nature is something of a puzzle. Who is the omniscient "I" of Walden?

Any number of his pithy remarks have sunk so deep in my consciousness as to have assumed a sort of autonomy: As if you could kill time without injuring eternity. Be it life or death we crave only reality. God him- self culminates in the present moment, and will never be more divine in the lapse of all the ages. Why so seeming fast, but deadly slow? So close to my heart is Beware of all en- terprises that require new clothes I might delude myself it is my invention.

it is the Walden of my adolescence I remember most vividly — suffused with the powerfully intense, romantic energies of adolescence, the sense that life is boundless, experimental, provisionary, ever-fluid, and unpredictable; the conviction that, whatever the accident of the outer self, the truest self is inward, secret, inviolable. "I love to be alone," says Thoreau. "I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude."

Thoreau is also a celebrant of the human spirit in contradistinction to what might be called the social being—the public identities with which we are specified at birth and which through our lifetimes we labor to assert in a context of other social beings similarly hypnotized by the mystery of their own identities.

"I have lived some thirty years on this planet," Thoreau says boldly, "and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors. They have told me nothing, and probably cannot tell me anything, to the purpose."

In his journal for 6 May 1854 Thoreau writes: "All that a man has to say or do that can possibly concern mankind, is in some shape or other to tell the story of his love, — to sing; and, if he is fortunate and keeps alive, he will be forever in love. This alone is to be alive to the extremities."

"We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us," Thoreau says, but such vigilance is possible only if one has broken free of human restraints and obligations—plans for the future, let's say, or remorse over one's past acts; only if the object of one's love is not another human being.

Thoreau proposed marriage to a young woman named Ellen Sewall in 1840, was rejected, and forever afterward seems to have turned his energies—his "love"—inward to the mys- terious self and outward to an equally mysterious Nature. "I have never felt lonesome, or in the least oppressed by a sense of solitude, but once . . . but I was at the same time conscious of a slight insanity in my mood, and seemed to
foresee my recovery," Thoreau says in that most eloquent of chapters, "Solitude." Here aloneness is so natural, so right, lonesomeness itself is a slight insanity. Even Nietzsche's celibate prophet Zarathustra, that most alone of men, ad- mits to being lonely; and does not shrink from saying "I love man," though his love is not returned.

(At the time of his death Thoreau left behind an extraordinary record—thirty-nine manuscript volumes containing nearly two million words, a journal religiously kept from his twen- tieth year until his death.) But so superb a stylist is Thoreau we always have the sense as we read of a mind flying bril- liantly before us, throwing off sparks, dazzling and iridescent and seemingly effortless as a butterfly in flight: What an eye, we are moved to think—what an ear! what spon- taneity! In fact Walden is mosaic rather than narrative, a carefully orchestrated symbolic fiction and not a forthright account of a man's sojourn in the woods.

More important still, we should understand Thoreau's "I" to be a calculated literary invention, a fictitious character set in a naturalistic but fictitious world.

Writing is not after all merely the record of having lived but an aspect of living itself.

Who are we?—where are we? Thoreau repeatedly asks. He confesses or brags that he knows not the first letter of the alphabet, and is not so wise now as the day he was born.

Similarly unsentimental but cast in a Transcendentalist mode is the long and brilliantly sustained passage in "Spring" in which Thoreau studies the hieroglyphic forms of thawing sand and clay on the side of a railroad embank- ment. In this extraordinary prose poem Thoreau observes so minutely and with such stark precision that the reader ex- periences the phenomenon far more vividly than he might ever hope to in life.

Joyce Carol Oates

It was the poet’s business, he explained in a journal entry on 19 August 1851, to be ‘‘continually watching the moods of his mind, as the astronomer watches the aspects of the heavens. What might we not expect from a long life faithfully spent in this wise? . . . As travellers go around the world and report natural objects and phenomena, so faithfully let another stay at home and report the phenomena of his own life.’’

Jeffrey S. Cramer


I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of.
Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in.

Who made them serfs of the soil? Why should they eat their sixty acres, when man is condemned to eat only his peck of dirt? Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they are born?

How many a poor immortal soul have I met well nigh crushed and smothered under its load, creeping down the road of life, pushing before it a barn seventy-five feet by forty, its Augean stables never cleansed, and one hundred acres of land, tillage, mowing, pasture, and wood-lot! The portionless, who struggle with no such unnecessary inherited encumbrances, find it labor enough to subdue and cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh.

But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon ploughed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool's life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before.

Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them.

Actually, the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity day by day; he cannot afford to sustain the manliest relations to men; his labor would be depreciated in the market. He has no time to be any thing but a machine.

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.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.

But alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to give up our prejudices.

One may almost doubt if the wisest man has learned any thing of absolute value by living. Practically, the old have no very important advice to give the young, their own experience has been so partial, and their lives have been such miserable failures, for private reasons, as they must believe; and it may be that they have some faith left which belies that experience, and they are only less young than they were.
I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors. They have told me nothing, and probably cannot tell me any thing, to the purpose. Here is life, an experiment to a great extent untried by me; but it does not avail me that they have tried it. If I have any experience which I think valuable, I am sure to reflect that this my Mentors said nothing about.

Nature and human life are as various as our several constitutions. Who shall say what prospect life offers to another?
Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant? We should live in all the ages of the world in an hour; ay, in all the worlds of the ages. History, Poetry, Mythology!— I know of no reading of another's experience so star- tling and informing as this would be.

All change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every instant. Confucius said, "To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge." When one man has reduced a fact of the imag- ination to be a fact to his understanding, I foresee that all men will at length establish their lives on that basis.

For the improvements of ages have had but little influence on the essential laws of man's existence; as our skele- tons, probably, are not to be distinguished from those of our ancestors.

None of the brute creation requires more than Food and Shelter.

Man has invented, not only houses, but clothes and cooked food; and possibly from the accidental discovery of the warmth of fire, and the consequent use of it, at first a luxury, arose the present necessity to sit by it. We observe cats and dogs acquiring the same second nature.

The ancient philosophers, Chinese, Hindoo, Persian, and Greek, were a class than which none has been poorer in outward riches, none so rich in inward.

Of a life of luxury the fruit is luxury, whether in agriculture, or commerce, or literature, or art. There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers. Yet it is admirable to profess because it was once admirable to live. To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically.

Thinking that when he had made the baskets he would have done his part, and then it would be the white man's to buy them. He had not discovered that it was necessary for him to make it worth the other's while to buy them, or at least make him think that it was so, or to make something else which it would be worth his while to buy.
and instead of studying how to make it worth men's while to buy my baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of selling them.

I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.

It is desirable that a man be clad so simply that he can lay his hands on himself in the dark, and that he live in all respects so compactly and preparedly, that, if an enemy take the town, he can, like the old philosopher, walk out the gate empty-handed without anxiety.

Many a man is harassed to death to pay the rent of a larger and more luxurious box who would not have frozen to death in such a box as this.

The Indians had advanced so far as to regulate the effect of the wind by a mat suspended over the hole in the roof and moved by a string. Such a lodge was in the first instance constructed in a day or two at most, and taken down and put up in a few hours; and every family owned one, or its apartment in one.

though the birds of the air have their nests, and the foxes their holes, and the savages their wigwams, in modern civilized society not more than one half the families own a shelter.
In the large towns and cities, where civilization especially prevails, the number of those who own a shelter is a very small fraction of the whole. The rest pay an annual tax for this outside garment of all, become indis- pensable summer and winter, which would buy a village of Indian wigwams, but now helps to keep them poor as long as they live.
it is evident that the savage owns his shelter because it costs so little, while the civilized man hires his commonly because he cannot afford to own it;

But how happens it that he who is said to enjoy these things is so commonly a poor civilized man, while the savage, who has them not, is rich as a savage?

the cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.

And when the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the house that has got him.

For our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed in them;

Most men appear never to have considered what a house is, and are actually though needlessly poor all their lives because they think that they must have such a one as their neighbors have.

Shall we always study to obtain more of these things, and not sometimes to be content with less?

I had three pieces of limestone on my desk, but I was terrified to find that they required to be dusted daily, when the furniture of my mind was all undusted still, and I threw them out the window in disgust How, then, could I have a furnished house? I would rather sit in the open air, for no dust gathers on the grass, unless where man has broken ground.

I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion. I would rather ride on earth in an ox cart with a free circulation, than go to heaven in the fancy car of an excursion train and breathe a malaria all the way.

The very simplicity and nakedness of man's life in the primitive ages imply this advantage at least, that they left him still but a sojourner in nature. When he was refreshed with food and sleep he contemplated his journey again. He dwelt, as it were, in a tent in this world, and was either threading the valleys, or crossing the plains, or climbing the mountain tops.

men have become the tools of their tools. The man who independently plucked the fruits when he was hungry is become a farmer; and he who stood under a tree for shelter, a housekeeper.

The cart before the horse is neither beautiful nor useful. Before we can adorn our houses with beautiful objects the walls must be stripped, and our lives must be stripped, and beautiful housekeeping and beautiful living be laid for a foundation: now, a taste for the beautiful is most cultivated out of doors, where there is no house and no housekeeper.

Near the end of March, 1845, I borrowed an axe and went down to the woods by Walden Pond, nearest to where I intended to build my house, and began to cut down some tall arrowy white pines, still in their youth, for timber.
It is difficult to begin without borrowing, but perhaps it is the most generous course thus to permit your fellow-men to have an interest in your enterprise.