I’ve just returned from Walden Pond. Last time I was there it was July and the pond was more of a swimming hole than a Thoreau shrine. It somehow seemed tamed by its change house and swimming lane markers. This time was another story altogether. Overnight a Nor’Easter had dumped between 18″-24″ of heavy snow. When I tromped down to the pond, the trail was only visible where there was fencing. I walked the distance to the site of Thoreau’s cabin and looked out without another soul in sight, or any sign of human habitation.
So why this fixation on Thoreau? I believe he has so much to teach us about the economy of writing and using asides to the reader to make a passage feel entirely like a conversation, at least the listening part. I’ve started to hear Thoreau’s slow, deep and deliberate voice when I read. Here are some memorable gems:
The world is but a canvas for our imagination.
Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.
Our life is frittered away by detail…simplify, simplify.
It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.
Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.
Not all who wander are lost.
Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn you attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.
Things do not change; we change.
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.
Most of the luxuries and many so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.
I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of a man to elevate his life by conscious endeavour.
What is once well done is done forever.
Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.
Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.
How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.
All good things are wild and free.
Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.
Dreams are the touchstones of our character.
What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.
When it comes time to die, let us not discover that we have never lived.
Be yourself, not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be.
Life isn’t about finding yourself; it’s about creating yourself. So live the life you imagined.
If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.
Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.
I make myself rich by making my wants few.
There is no remedy for love, but to love more.
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.
For an impenetrable shield, stand inside yourself.
Goodness is the only investment that never fails.
To be awake is to be alive.
The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams and live the life you have imagined.