Thoughts From Thoreau: Part Three

Tom Morris

This is the THIRD installment of wisdom from Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862). Look at the posting two weeks ago 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 perspectives.

The monster is never just where we think he is. What is truly monstrous is our cowardice and sloth. (34)

Do not despair of life. You have no doubt force enough to overcome your obstacles.

The universe expects every man to do his duty in his parallel of latitude. (35)

How can any man be weak who dares to be at all?

Surely joy is the condition of life. (37)

Above all, we cannot afford not to live in the present. He is blessed over all mortals who loses no moment of the passing life in remembering the past.

All that a man has to say or do that can possibly concern mankind, is in some shape of other to tell the story of his love - to sing, and, if he is fortunate and keeps alive, he will be forever in love. This alone is to be alive to the extremities. It is a pity that this divine creature should ever suffer from cold feet; a still greater pity that the coldness so often reaches to his heart. (40)

We live too fast and coarsely, just as we eat too fast, and do not know the true savor of food. (42)

When we are unhurried and wise we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence - that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of reality. This is always exhilarating and sublime.

To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. (43)

We have lived not in proportion to the number of years that we have spent on the earth, but in proportion as we have enjoyed. (43)

Come back next week for what may be the last in our series of brief selections from Thoreau's insights.


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