Walden

 
Recently at Transforming Stress we talked about the coming proliferation of drones, and it reminded me of the Thoreau quote, “Thank God men cannot as yet fly and lay waste the sky as well as the earth!”   A lot has changed since his day. I decided to start rereading Walden.

Basically Thoreau’s two years, two months and two days living at Walden Pond were an experiment. He thought most men lead lives of meaningless drudgery—“quiet desperation”—and he wanted to show that if they if they didn’t buy into the American ideal of materialism they would have more choices. And, of course, the time at Walden was a spiritual retreat for Thoreau. He didn’t want to live like that forever, he left because “it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and I could not spare any more time for that one.”

He was able to do the experiment only because of the support of his mother and friends–especially Emerson who let him build the cabin and live on his land. Not everyone would have that option. And nowadays he couldn’t have legally built the cabin without going through multiple hoops to get the building permits. But today we have other options–there are gazillions of books with ideas about how change our lives. The very fact that so many people buy them means millions of people don’t feel trapped.

I certainly made good use of books like that when I was younger and working on creating a fulfilling life for myself. What about you?

Thanks to Evan, tammy, Cathy, Dixie, bikehikebabe and Rummuser for commenting on last week’s post.
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13 Responses to Walden

  1. Mike says:

    There are certainly all kinds of books for helping with this or that. Most of my books of that kind were do-it-yourself type books that have helped me figure out how to do lots of stuff. I did purchase an audio program by Earl Nightingale that I felt was very beneficial in making the most of my career.
    Mike´s last blog post ..Wyoming Rest.

  2. bikehikebabe says:

    I read the book (no audio) about Walden Pond. Really liked it. Reminded me of staying at our cabin which I just wrote about on Jean’s other blog–Stress To Power.

  3. tammy j says:

    i first red henry when i was 16. we clicked right then and there. he formed my future life i think… in a way that nothing else did. he’s one of my heroes.
    i have always liked “lay” books. you know… self help? lay psychology? what the brits call psycho-babble. LOL.
    hey! i took a nap. staying up late. it’s 11pm here! wow!
    tammy j´s last blog post ..before you know it !

  4. Jean says:

    Mike,
    I agree—hurray for books and tapes! I actually listened to a number of Nightingale-Conant tape series. They were always upbeat and often had useful ideas.

    bikehikebabe,
    That was a great idea—small individual cabin sites plus a lot of communal land. Was there ever any problem with the taxes on the communal land? How did that work?

    tammy,
    My feeling is who cares if some people call it psychobabble? The main thing for me is does the book have any useful ideas for us to try? Either it works for us or it doesn’t.

    I won’t tell you what time it is this morning. It is almost bedtime, and at least the sun isn’t up yet. :)

  5. Evan says:

    I’ve always been a bit of an observer, never really bought the usual way of doing things.

    The books that have changed my life:
    Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
    Pearson’s Awakening the Heroes Within
    Perls, Hefferline and Goodman’s Gestalt Therapy
    Ellul’s The Technological Society and; The Ethics of Freedom

  6. Dixie says:

    At a young age I received a copy of Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet”. I suppose, other than “The Bible”, no other book has had the amount of influence this one has had and continues today. “The Tao of Pooh” led me on a new adventure… as did “The Talisman,” by Richard Bachman.

    Indeed there are scores of books; biographical, historical, and art renderings that I absorbed. All of these help shaped my life.

    What a terrific post, Jean, thanks.
    Dixie´s last blog post ..Neil Gaiman quote

  7. tammy j says:

    i always like coming back to see what you have said about what we all have said.
    it must have been very late indeed. i see where i said i “red” henry. hahahaha! you tell me not to worry about typos and grammar. but then mr mac vey is on my other shoulder saying ‘you should have caught that tammy.’
    and i’ve read most of the ‘self help’ books on listening to your OWN inner person.
    like you and dixie and most all of us here ~ many more than one kind of book has helped form my life. i want to read more of emerson. and i still love the tao and also most books by dyer.
    has anyone out there read the urantia book?
    tammy j´s last blog post ..what are we doing?

  8. Cathy in NZ says:

    Over periods of my life, I have read (tammy, red won’t show up as wrong as it’s a word, just not necessarily the one for here :-) a number of self-help books and similar. Some helped, others hindered or they went into my “depends”

    A few months ago, I had another look at the titles, a few introductions to see if there was something new, but I just saw “same old, same old” and decided I was capable of doing whatever I want without having an author of unknown qualities guide me!

    I would like to shift from this home, to somewhere actually smaller, not completely smaller but more compact so I had to actually downsize to fit into somewhere – probably end up in a better space. Not to the same size as Walden cabin or that far outside urban arena.
    Cathy in NZ´s last blog post ..BIRD project

  9. Jean says:

    Evan,
    I suppose the book that had the most profound influence on me was a book on self-hypnosis that I read when I was 16. I had to have a root canal and had a phobia of dentists. Thanks to the book I cured myself of it and from then on I never felt stuck. It might take a while to work things out, but I wasn’t helpless.

    Dixie,
    I agree, it warms my heart to think of them, but they’re too numerous to list. Being grateful is sufficient. :)

    tammy,
    About typos—you’re among friends here, but if you feel the need to correct something that’s fine too. Just remember, we don’t have to be perfect to be loveable. And as you know from all the comments on your own blog, you are definitely loved.

    Cathy,
    I’m sorry some of the books were more of a hindrance. I agree that after a while we’ve heard most of the ideas already, and presumably we’ve checked out which work for us and which don’t.

    Good luck on finding a new place! Please keep us posted.

  10. Rummuser says:

    I was made to read Walden when I was 19 by my girl friend who had to study it for her college course. It did not impress me much at that age, but I revisited the book ten years ago to see if I can pick up something from it since so much has been written about it. I concluded that as a description of one’s way of life for a short while, at a time and age when such living was possible, it was a fair piece of writing but nothing more in terms of lessons for me to learn.

    There are other methods, tried and tested by me to suit my temperament for me to isolate myself which work better for me.

    No, I won’t be able to build a cottage, but am in the process of simplifying my life to suit my current realities instead of trying out some romantic idea of life in the wilderness.
    Rummuser´s last blog post ..Mumbai Fables.

  11. Jean says:

    Rummuser,
    So you’ve given up on the ashram idea? ;) Who knows where your path will lead.

  12. Rummuser says:

    No, I have not not given up the ashram idea. I still need to sort out the third revision for one of my hips before I take off into the unknown. Quite when that will happen is anybody’s guess as the prosthesis is now holding up but is expected to give up at some point.

    Incidentally, an ashram can be anywhere, even in the midst of heavy traffic on a traffic island, what you may call a round about.
    Rummuser´s last blog post ..A Date With Ranjan.

  13. Jean says:

    Rummuser,
    “Incidentally, an ashram can be anywhere, even in the midst of heavy traffic on a traffic island, what you may call a round about.” Of course. I’m afraid you missed the point of this post if you think it’s about retiring to the woods an easy walk to town.

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