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Henry’s view of the world has always been so clearly aligned with my own, I never realized that their are many others who do not care for him one bit.
What follows below is a recently published essay about Henry from an author who clearly does not share my respect for the man – cantankerous as he might have been. The post also contains a few well written responses from members of the Thoreau Society hoping to provide some clarity, context and a critique of the author’s research shortcomings.
No, Henry is not for everyone. He never intended to be then and wouldn’t want to be now. As famously stated in Apple’s ‘Think Different’ campaign, it’s is the ’round pegs in the square holes, the rebels, the outcasts, that change the world.”
Henry’s existence in Concord during the mid 1800’s likely caused little more than a ripple on the fabric of the community at the time. However, there is no question that the thoughts he captured on paper have certainly changed our world today – if only by inspiring one or another of us to walk more confidently in the direction of our dreams.
Like the odd-tasting soda I mentioned in my headline, Henry is peculiar. While everyone around him was looking up to the heavens for guidance and inspiration, Henry focused his attention downward on what ‘is’ all around us rather than what we imagine or what we are told to ‘believe’ to be true.
Trouble is, when people focus on what’s inside, and all around them, they often don’t like what they see. I guess that’s why some people are left with a bad taste in their mouth trying to abide by Henry’s train of thought. Reality can quite often be a very tough pill to swallow.
Why Thoreau Matters – The Atlantic http://www.theatlantic.com/notes/all/2015/10/why-thoreau-matters/412801/#note-412819 (Share from CM Browser)
No matter what, remember that for every action there is a reaction…somewhere, sometime, always. While you can’t always control or predict what that reaction will be, just being aware that there will be one should help influence your decisions and make better choices.
Learn tips to avoid “Jevons Paradox”.
“…books stimulate conversation. Conversation stimulates a sense of community. Listening happens. Thinking. The exchange of thoughts.” Reading became a galvanizing force rather than a solitary chore.” – Heidi Pitlor
You can read more of Pitlor’s Huffinton Post article here:
Sadly, the tendency for us over share and sensationalize instead of taking the time rationalize is nothing new.
In a journal entry from August, 1851, Henry Thoreau wrote, “how vain it is to sit down to write without first having stood up to live.”
To this idea, let me paraphrase – how vain it is to sit down to write, without first sitting down to read – and learn what great writing can be.
You can find many of my ‘favorite’ Thoreau quotes listed here as well or on hundreds of other sites on the Web…but the list in and of itself is an example of exactly what I am talking about. (And what I believe Ms. Pitlor is saying as well.)
Now, of course Henry didn’t spend his time at Walden thinking up lists and catchy one-liners. In fact, he probably spent much more time reading (and sauntering about) than he did writing.
Each of these now famous quotes was taken from a much larger work – and often a larger idea – that was captured by Thoreau’s pencil after many hours of study, activity and contemplation. The fact that these few words can stand on their own and still be so powerful and completely understood is testament to his genius and vision.
Thoreau did not write because he seeked fame or notoriety. He certainly didn’t write to have bumper stickers, coffee mugs and t shirts printed with his ‘best’ lines…but I do understand that conservation takes money and visibility. Que Sera Sera.
He wrote in response to what he read, experienced and then considered to be true – in that order!
Unfortunately today, many writers do just the opposite.
Instead, for those of us with the penchant for expressing ourselves through the written word, I offer this sage advice about how move the craft forward instead of simply adding to the noise “learn it, know it, live it.”
Thoreau and Walden Pond re-imagined in 'Walden, revisited' exhibition at deCordova Museum – Artwire Press Release from ArtfixDaily.com
This sounds fantastic. It would be great to see Walden’s influence on current expressions of art. I wouldn’t think Henry would understand what all the fuss was about, but I’m sure he would appreciate the efforts of these talented artists….certainly better than doing “real work” and leading a life of “quiet desperation.”
I’m currently reading “The Professor and the Madman” which is the story of the monumental task of creating the first, comprehensive Oxford English Dictionary (500,000+ words) and while reading it, I have thought that maybe there are no longer “crazy people” such as James Murray and poor Dr. Minor out there to take on these same types of unthinkably large tasks “just to see if it could be done.”
After all, consider this – Working with volunteer researchers around the world and with a whole team of writers and editors on staff, FIVE YEARS into a proposed ten-year project (1879-1884) , Murray and his editors finally reach the word “ant” !!
So much for THAT 10-year plan.
Then, over this past weekend, I just happened to catch this segment on CBS News’ Sunday Morning program. Apparently, an engineering student was golfing from coast to coast across the entire United States (Par 48,000 anyone?) to help raise some money for a cause – AND to see if it could be done.
…so yes, thankfully, the “crazy” people are still out there – along with, maybe, the truth.
So what do you think ? Are you for them or against them ? Or, perhaps you ARE one of them ? Do you value, criticize or simply ignore the contributions of those who seem to march – according the words of Thoreau – to the tune of a different drummer ?