Thoreau

From today’s Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of Henry David Thoreau (books by this author), who was born David Henry Thoreau in Concord, Massachusetts (1817). We know him as the author of Walden, and the essay “Civil Disobedience.” He became the first member of his family to go to college. He went to Harvard, but didn’t much care for the place. He didn’t much care for school teaching either. He went to live with Ralph Waldo Emerson in Concord and did odd jobs around the house and took care of the children. It was Emerson who encouraged Thoreau to write poetry and suggested that Thoreau keep a journal, both of which Thoreau continued to do for the rest of his life.

He was 27 years old when he built that little cabin on the edge of Walden Pond and moved in, in an attempt, he said, to “Simplify, simplify, simplify … to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach.”

I first came across Thoreau when I was 20 years old. My first exposure, sadly, was through the movie Dead Poet’s Society, which is a great film, but it seems more proper to have come across his writings in class or just as a passing whim read. The most well-known quote used in the movie was the eternally relevant:

“I went to the woods because I wanted 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, to discover that I had not lived”

Of course, Thoreau is a man made of much more beyond this one statement. I must credit him and his writings for inspiring me in so many ways – in my expressions through art, my search for the divine, my fire to move west, my interest in philosophy. In so many ways, Thoreau symbolizes much more to me and about me than any of the religious endeavors I’ve chosen to take part.

One of my most favorite quotes:

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