Thoughts From Thoreau: Part Four

Tom Morris

This is the fourth installment of wisdom from Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862). Look at the posting three weeks ago for part one. A graduate of Harvard University and friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau came to be regarded as one of our more perceptive American philosophers. He is especially known for his books A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, and the very famous Walden. His essay "Civil Disobedience" is known to have inspired Gandhi. Many of his thoughts can inspire us every day. Here is the last short selection I'll be posting of his perspectives.

Nature never makes haste; her systems revolve at an even pace. The buds swell imperceptibly, without hurry or confusion, as though the short days of spring were an eternity. Why, then, should man hasten as if anything less than eternity were allotted for the least deed? The wise man is restful, never restless or impatient. He each moment abides where he is, as some walkers actually rest the whole body at each step, while others never relax the muscles of the legs until the accumulatedfatigue obliges them to stop short. (44)

Why should we live with such hurry and waste in life?

An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day. (46)

Our moments of inspiration are not lost though we have no particular poem to show for them; for those experiences have left an indelible impression, and we are ever and anon reminded of them.

He is the man truly - courageous, wise, ingenious - who can use his thoughts and ecstasies as the material of fair and durable creations. (47)

Nothing can rightly compel a simple and brave man to a vulgar sadness. I trust that nothing can make life a burden to me.

You must love the crust of the earth on which you dwell more than the sweet crust of any bread or cake. You must be able to extract nutriment out of a sand-heap. You must have so good an appetite as this, else you will live in vain.

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads. (48)

That we have little faith is not sad, but that we have little faithfulness. By faithfulness, faith is earned. (49)

Again I scent the white water-lily, and a season I had waited for is arrived. It is the emblem of purity and its scent suggests it. Growing in stagnant and muddy water, it bursts up so pure and fair to the eye and so sweet to the scent, as if to show us what purity and sweetness reside in, and can be extracted from, the slime and muck of earth. What confirmation of our hopes is in the fragrance of the water-lily! I shall not so soon despair of the world for it. (51)

Alas! This is the cyring sin of the age, this want of faith in the prevalence of a man. Nothing can be affected but by one man. He who wants help wants everything. True, this is the condition of our weakness, but it can never be the means of recovery. We must first succeed alone, that we may enjoy our success together. (54)

In eternity there is indeed something true and sublime. But all these times and places and occasions are now and here. God himself culminates in the present moment, and will never be more divine in the lapse of all the ages. And we are enabled to apprehend at all what is sublime and noble only by the perpetual instilling and drenching of the reality that surrounds us. (59)

We are the subjects of an experiment how singular? Can we not dispense with the society of our gossips a little while under these circumstances? (60)


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