Thoughts From Thoreau: Part Two

Tom Morris

This is the second instalment of wisdom from Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862). Look at last week's posting for part one. A Harvard graduate, Thoreau came to be regarded as one of our more astute American philosophers. He is known for his books A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, and the very famous Walden. His essay "Civil Disobedience" inspired Gandhi. Many of his thoughts can inspire us every day. Here are some more of his insights.

The fate of the country does not depend on how you vote at the polls - the worst man is as strong as the best at that game; it does not depend on what kind of paper you drop into the ballet-box once a year, but on the kind of man you drop from your chamber into the street every morning. (24)

The fault finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perchance have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse.

The millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?

You conquer fate by thought. (25)

To be serene and successful, we must be at one with the universe.

The more thrilling, wonderful objects I behold in a day, the more expanded and immortal I become.

I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite - only a sense of existence. My breath is sweet to me. O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment. (26)

(TM: Let's repeat that last insight)

Wealth is not possession but enjoyment.

Our life is frittered away by detail...Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity. I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumbnail. (27)

Everyone who deserves to be regarded as higher than the brute may be supposed to have an earnest purpose, to accomplish which is the object of his existence; and this at once is his work and his supremest pleasure; and for diversion and relaxation, for suggestion and education and strength, there is offered the never-failing amusement of getting a living - never-failing, I mean, when temperately indulged in. (28)

Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul is the work of the soul, and good for either the work of the other. (29)

There is victory in every effort. (30)
- I have that one taped on my computer monitor -TM)

Be of good courage! That is the main thing. (31)

The day is never so dark, nor the night even, but that the laws of light still prevail, and so may make it light in our minds if they are open to the truth. I never yet knew the sun to be knocked down and rolled through a mud puddle; he comes out honor bright from behind every storm. (32)

Nothing is so much to be feared as fear. (33)

Men were born to succeed, not to fail. (34)

Come back next week for one more selection of Thoreau's insights.


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