Monday, June 6, 2011

Thoreau was a good man

Henry David Thoreau was best known for his writing. And write he did.

He dedicated his life, from 1817 to 1862, to his pursuits as a naturalist, political critic and philosopher. He was a major influence on the foundations of transcendentalism – the philosophy of rejecting established doctrines in preference of individualism. The man was pretty dedicated to the cause – he lived on the shore of a pond for two years, for Pete’s sake, and while some of his writing may have been holier than thou “I don’t need to work because I’m above the need to work,” he was a fore-runner in advocating the individual’s need to recognize his own capacity for greatness; to leave the emptiness of common society and consumerism behind and instead embrace simplicity and self-sufficiency to achieve his own ideals.

Some of the greatest lines of his short life:

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!”

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

“Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.”

“Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”

And, above and beyond anything else the guy ever put to paper, I cherish these two:

““If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost. There is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.”

Thoreau, if you were still around today, I would send you presumptuous, slightly awkward emails asking you to have lunch. You would politely ignore them, and I would instead settle for reading your interviews in the New York Times and pretending I’d asked the questions. Thoreau, my friend: you were onto something.

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