“I came to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life…”
Henry David Thoreau moved to a cabin (that he built) in the woods in 1845 for just over 2 years. He did this because he wanted to live deliberately. He wanted to retreat from commerce, society, and the hustle bustle. He wanted simplicity. Childlike simplicity. In fact, Walden Pond was a place from his childhood. He wanted to regain that childlike simplicity by living without the crutches of things and focus on life.
As I get older, I often think back nostalgically to the places of my youth. Minnesota and Wisconsin. I remember the times outside, fishing in a lake, playing in the snow. I also have a desire to return to these places. I think part of it is that desire to return to simplicity. Instead of trying to recapture my childhood, could I take a different approach to life now?
Thoreau answers this question in Walden. He writes often about ownership of stuff and how stuff ends up owning a person and their time.
“…the cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”
He also talks about getting out in nature where you are:
“Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it. We need the tonic of wildness…we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
He eventually “left the woods for as good a reason as I went there.” He had gotten into a rut. He now wanted to rejoin society, but not within the common ruts of mankind. He wanted to live deliberately in society, simply and with a greater appreciation for the nature around him.
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
Before reading this book, I assumed Thoreau went to the woods and lived as a hermit, rarely if ever interacting with people. This was not the case. Thoreau said he had more visitors in the woods than at any other time in his life. These were travelers, neighbors, and workmen.
This was a great book with lines I often hear quoted in movies, books, and other media. We’d all be wise to simplify our lives. The common Books of Titans theme of the importance of time came up a lot in this book. Don’t spend your life looking back or forward too much. Don’t live someone else’s life through their expectations. Suck out all the marrow of life, live deliberately, and live simply. You can do that in your current life or in a cabin in the woods. The point is to do it now.
This is book 18 of 52 of the 2017 Books of Titans reading list.