One early morning, while enjoying the peace and quiet that came with everyone in my house still asleep, I began researching hermits and recluses. The things that go through my mind (and my Google search box) when I have a moment uninterrupted to think are usually quite comical. As strange as it may sound, however, this way of life sounds especially appealing to me at times. Maybe it’s because I have three children that are exceptionally loud during waking hours or because my Myers-Briggs test identified me as 99% introverted, or maybe it’s a mixture of both. Regardless, within my searching and reading, an article (albeit a negative one) about Henry David Thoreau’s book, Walden, came up. I immediately downloaded the book, which was free in Kindle-form on Amazon, and started reading. This is not the typical book we review on this blog, nor does it need my review. It is 163 years old and has stood the test of time. Obviously nothing I say will be able to help or hinder its success. However, I wanted to share my thoughts.
Instantly, I was drawn into the text, written about Thoreau’s time living in a small cabin, alone, on the edge of Walden pond in Massachusetts. He described his desire to escape society and see what living in solitude would be like.
The first half of the book was exceptionally interesting to me, as I found it intriguing to find someone who had lived such a long time before me writing my organic thoughts years before they popped into my mind. It made me feel like nothing we ever do is truly original. Every thought has crossed another brain, every idea has been thought of already.
The first few chapters of the book were my favorites; titled things such as Sounds, Reading, and Solitude. These were clearly some of my favorites as they describe things I love dearly.
I could practically feel the wrinkles in my brain forming (just kidding – that’s a myth) as I read further into Thoreau’s account. This book was written at a higher level than most things I normally read, and chock full of 1800’s lingo that takes some getting acquainted with. I would read about two pages and feel as if it should have been ten. This didn’t deter me from enjoying this Classic. I was eager to absorb the things Thoreau experienced and the things he learned.
I found Thoreau’s thoughts on college, the economy, nature, and people truly enlightening and all things that I, for the most part, agree with. Though, I found Thoreau to be a bit of a conceited voice at times, and sometimes even downright sarcastic. As applicable as his words were in the 1850’s, they could perhaps be even more beneficial to today’s fast-moving society. We could all use a break and a little quiet time.
The most popular quote from Walden, sums up his thought process on entering his life in the woods,
“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… I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”
Isn’t that the most basic human desire? To truly live. Yet, most of us only exist in the routines and constraints of society. We have allowed ourselves to redefine what life should be, and become a miserable and depressed group of people in 2017 America. I aspire to think outside of the box, and truly suck the marrow out of what life has to offer me, as we all should in whatever form that takes for each of us.
Another powerful thought from Thoreau for us bibliophiles:
“A written word is the choicest of relics. It is something at once more intimate with us and more universal than any other work of art. It is the work of art nearest to life itself. It may be translated into every language, and not only be read but actually breathed from all human lips; — not be represented on canvas or in marble only, but be carved out of the breath of life itself. The symbol of an ancient man’s thought becomes a modern man’s speech.”
We can see, hear, and taste the written word, even touch it as we write it with our own hands – allowing this artform to physically affect nearly all of our senses. The words we read and hear can seep into our souls and fundamentally change how we conduct our lives. Anyone who said reading is unimportant is easily proven wrong by this statement.
Besides the Bible, I would have to say Walden may be one of the best self-help books out there, and it was written before the genre was even invented. If you’ve yet to get lost in the pages of this classic, I would highly recommend picking it up. Then, go live, deliberately.