walden – page 40

Walden CoverI’m only to page 40 of Walden, by Thoreau, and already the following wisdom portions have been served up. Even without the context that surrounds these words written 150 years ago, they strike to the point of matters that are relevant still.

on the struggle for meaning in life
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. …A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind.”

“Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them.”

on worry
“The incessant anxiety and strain of some is a well-nigh incurable form of disease. We are made to exaggerate the importance of what work we do; and yet how much is not done by us!”

on living and learning
“Here is life, an experiment to a great extent untried by me…”

“I mean that [youths] should not play life, or study it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end. How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living?”

“To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts… but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust.”

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”

on failure
“Whatever have been thy failures hitherto, ‘be not afflicted, my child, for who shall assign to thee what thou hast left undone?’ “

on buying/owning a house
“When the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the house that has got him.”

“Most men appear never to have considered what a house is, and are actually though needlessly poor all their lives because they think that they must have such a one as their neighbors have.”

“Before we can adorn our houses with beautiful objects the walls must be stripped, and our lives must be stripped, and beautiful housekeeping and beautiful living be laid for a foundation: now, a taste for the beautiful is most cultivated out of doors, where there is no house and no housekeeper.”

“We now no longer camp as for a night, but have settled down on earth and forgotten heaven.”

on technological advances
“Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arrive at.”

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