Monday, April 11, 2011

Catching up those i missed

I recently read Walden by Henry David Thoreau, which was first published in 1854. My first reaction was that it was all well and good for this Harvard educated single man to go live in a cabin by a lake for two years, but how could what he learned in the 1850's be relevant to my life in 21st century modern family suburbia? And, as you might have guessed, Walden is still being read and reread over 150 years after it was published because it remains wonderfully and shockingly relevant in modern times. This is not to say that Thoreau isn’t a bit controversial in his thinking. Here are some memorable quotes from Walden: Anti knick-knacks and collectibles "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 threw them out the window in disgust." Anti comforts of society "I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion." Anti accumulation of stuff "A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone." Anti pointless yet impressive buildings “Nations are possessed with an insane ambition to perpetuate the memory of themselves by the amount of hammered stone they leave ... One piece of good sense is more memorable than a monument as high as the moon.” Advocate of living deliberately “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 did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. “ Advocate of simplifying life “In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.” As if to prove Walden’s relevance today, I then spotted an article called “But Will It Make You Happy?” in this week’s New York Times. While no one in the New York Times article mentions moving to a cabin of solitude in the woods or even mentions Walden directly, one couple gets rid of most of their possessions and moves to a studio apartment, and a filmmaker moves to a trailer park near the beach. Almost everyone in the article has found greater happiness by simplifying their life, shopping and buying less, and focusing on natural experiences instead of possessions. Numerous research studies and psychologists are quoted with similar advice on simplifying and focusing on experiences, all ideas that Thoreau expounded on in Walden all those years ago. Check out Walden by Henry David Thoreau—still relevant after all these years! And for another modern look at Walden, a friend has recommended At least in the city someone would hear me scream: misadventures in search of the simple life by Wade Rouse, who is compared favorably to comedic essayist David Sedaris as he documents his move to with his partner to a rustic part of Michigan. Have you read Walden? Do you think it is still relevant today?Why do you agree or disagree with Thoreau's ideas 303 pages I am so disorganized that I am scanning the list of books I paid late fees on to see what else I read and might have missed. Wow. Runaway by Meg Cabot, last October, 7 hours Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips 387 pages, in March 2011 And a note: kids books I have read over and over this past year: Harry the Dirty Dog The Easter Egg Artists Officer Buckle and Gloria Good night, Gorilla 10 Minutes til Bedtime In the Snow


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