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Sunday, August 08, 2004
ANOTHER GREAT ANNIVERSARY DAY
"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 out all the marrow of life.... "
Henry David Thoreau, "Walden" (1854)
It was exactly 150 years ago today that the first edition of a quintessential American book was released. Henry David Thoreau, a writer and transcendentalist had retired to a small pond in Concord, Massachusetts in 1845, and spent 2 years and 2 months and 2 days living there-not counting the night he spent in jail for a celebrated act of civil disobedience, refusing to pay taxes as a protest against slavery. The literary result of that time, "Walden,or, Life in the Woods" was published in 1854, and released on August 8 of that year.
"Walden" is one of those books which have changed the entire course of people's lives, especially if they read it somewhere in their teenage years. I am no 'transcendentalist', and don't agree with all of Thoreau's conclusions. Nevertheless, he raises the important questions, cuts through the all the artificiality and forces the reader to come to some type of conclusion about what his or her life is all about. And he does it in a simple, dignified, unpreachy way.
The best overall resource for Thoreau and Walden is The Walden Woods Project Thoreau Institute. Wonderful collection of texts, images and commentary.
Another online version of "Walden" , with searchable text..
National Public Radio site on "Walden".
Great quotes from "Walden".
A Thoreau Timeline..
A nice essay by Steven Alburty on his first exposure to "Walden".
..I learned this, at least, by my experiment;that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams,and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined,he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours...