“Convinced that the less labor a man did, the better for him and the community, Thoreau retired to the shore of Walden Pond, where he lived for two years in a hut of his own construction.” (From the introduction in this version of the "Walden" and "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience")
“Amid the distractions of our industrial America, the image of the youth beside Walden Pond who cried only for simplification becomes for thousands of the dream of a green isle in the sea, a surcease from distraction, imparting energy to those who admit to themselves, in sleepless nights, that they do after all lead lives of quiet desperation.” (From the afterword in this version of the "Walden" and "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience")
„Ich zog in den Wald, weil ich den Wunsch hatte, mit Überlegungen zu leben, dem eigentlichen, wirklichen Leben näherzutreten, zu sehen, ob ich nicht lernen konnte, was es zu lehren hatte, damit ich nicht, wenn es zum Sterben ginge, einsehen müsste, dass ich nicht gelebt hatte. Ich wollte nicht das Leben, was nicht Leben war; das Leben ist so kostbar.“(Henry David Thoreau in der deutschen Version von "Walden")
„Um ein Philosoph zu sein, ist es nicht genug, geistreiche Gedanken zu haben oder eine Schule zu gründen, sondern man muss die Weisheit so lieben, dass man nach ihr lebt, ein Leben der Einfachheit, der Unabhängigkeit, der Großmut und des Vertrauens. Man muss einige der Lebensrätsel nicht theoretisch sondern praktisch lösen.“ (Henry David Thoreau in der deutschen Version von "Walden")
"Walden; or, Life in the Woods"
by Henry David Thoreau, 1854
"...i was seized and put into jail, because, as i have elsewhere related, i did not pay a tax to, or recognize the authority of the State which buys and sells men, women, and children, like cattle, at the door of its senate-house... wherever a man goes, men will pursue and paw him with their dirty institutions, and, if they can, constrain him to belong to their desperate odd-fellow society.... it is true, i might have resisted forcibly with more or less effect, might have run "amok" against society; but i preferred that society should run "amok" against me, it being the desperate party. ... i was never molested by any person but those who represented the State. ... i am convinced, that if all men were to live as simply as i then did, thieving and robbery would be unknown. these take place only in communitites where some have got more than is sufficient while others have not enough. .. "You who govern public affairs, what need have you to employ punishments? Love virtue, and the people will be virtuous. The virtues of a superior man are like the wind; the virtues of a common man are like the grass; the grass, when the wind passes over it, bends."
"restless commited men, whose time was all taken up in getting a living or keeping it; ministers who spoke of God as if they enjoyed a monopoly of the subject, who could not bear all kinds of opinions; ...young men who had ceased to be young, and had concluded that it was safest to follow the beaten track of the professions.... the old and infirm and timid, of whatever age or sex, thought most of sickness, and sudden accident and death; to them life seemed full of danger, -what danger is there if you don'T think of any- and they thought that a prudent man would carefully select the safest position, where Dr. B. might be on hand at a moment's warning."
"But the only true America is that country where you are at liberty to pursue such a mode of life as may enable you to do without these [coffee, tea, meat, butter - unnecessary luxury], and where the state does not endeavor to compel you to sustain the slavery and war and other superfluous expenses which directly or indirectly result from the use of such things.[...]
I should be glad if all the meadows on the earth were left in a wild state, if that were the consequence of men's beginning to redeem themselves. A man will not need to study history to find out what is best for his own culture."
"The nation itself, with all it’s so-called internal improvements, which, by the way are all external and superficial, is just such an unwieldly and overgrown establishment, cluttered with furniture and tripped up by its own traps, ruined by luxury and heedless expense, by want of calculation and a worthy aim, as the million households in the land; and the only cure for it, as for them, is a rigid economy, a stern and more than Spartan simplicity of life and elevation of purpose.'"
"What at such a time [spring] are histories, chronologies, traditions, and all written revelations?" (246)
"We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us, like the grass which confesses the influence of the slightest dew that falls on it; and did not spend our time in atoning for the neglect of past opportunities, which we call doing our duty.
Why the jailer does not leave open his prison doors, - why the judge does not dismiss his case, - why the preacher does not dismiss his congregation! It is because they do not obey the hint which God gives them, nor accept the pardon which he freely offers to all." (249)
"The Golden Age was first created which without any avenger
Spontaneously without law cherished fidelity and rectitude.
Punishment and fear were not; nor were threatening words read
On suspended brass; nor did the suppliant crowd fear
The words of their judge; but were safe without an avenger.
Not the pine felled on its mountains had descended
To the liquid waves that it might see a foreign world,
And mortals knew no shores but their own.
There was eternal spring, and placid zephyrs with warm
Blasts soothed the flowers born without seed." (250)
"Out village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it." (251)
"To sick the doctors wisely recommend a change of air and scenery.
The universe is wider than our views of it…The other side of the globe is but the home of our correspondent. Our voyaging is only great-circle sailing, and the doctors prescribe for diseases of the skin merely…”Direct your eye inward, and you’ll find a thousand regions in your mind yet undiscovered. Travel them, and be expert in home-cosmography." (253)
"Yet some can be patriotic who have no self-respect, and sacrifice the greater to the less. They love the soil which makes their graves, but have no sympathy with the spirit which may still animate their clay. Patriotism is a maggot in their heads….What was the meaning of that South-Sea Exploring Expedition, …, but that it is easier to sail many thousand miles through cold and storm and cannibals, in a government ship, with five hundred men and boys who assist one, than it is to explore the private sea… Let them wander and scrutinize the outlandish Australians, I have more of God, they more of the road." (254)
"It is not for a man to put himself in such an attitude to society, but to maintain himself in whatever attitude he find himself through obedience to the laws of his being, which will never be one of opposition to a just government, if he should chance to meet with such." (255)
"How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity! I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now. I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal , and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him…
As if there were safety in stupidity alone. I fear chiefly lest my expression ma not be extra-vagant enough, may not wander far enough beyond the narrow limits of my daily experience, so as to be adequate to the truth of which I have been convinced [by the Nation]." (256)
"While England endeavors to cure the potato-rot, will not any endeavor to cure the brain-rot, which prevails so much more widely and fatally?" (257)
"Shall a man go and hang himself because he belongs to the race of pygmies, and not be the biggest pygmy that he can? [relating to wiser men in the past] Let every one mind his own business, and endeavor to be what he was made." (258)
"No face which we can give to the matter will stead us so well at last as the truth.
The faultfinder will find faults even in paradise." (259)
"Things do not change; we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts. God will see that you do not want society.
Moreover, if you are restricted in your range by poverty, if you cannot buy books and newspapers, for instance, you are but confined to the most significant and vital experiences; you are compelled to deal with the material which yields the most sugar and the most starch. It is life near the bone where it is sweetest….Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only. Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul." (260)
"As I stand over the insect crawling amid the pine needles on the forest floor, and endeavouring to conceal itself from my sight, and ask myself why it will cherish those humble thoughts, and hide its head from me who might, perhaps, be its benefactor, and impart to its race some cheering information, I am reminded of the greater Benefactor and Intelligence that stands over me the human insect.
The government of the world I live in was not framed, like that of Britain, in after-dinner conversations over the wine." (263)
"Who knows what beautiful and winged life, whose egg has been buried for ages under many concentric layers of woodenness in the dead dry life of society, …, may unexpectedly come forth from amidst society’s most trivial and handselled furniture, to enjoy its perfect summer life at last!" (264 – last page) (Henry David Thoreau, "Walden",1854)
Thoreau über die Pflicht des zivilen Ungehorsams ("On the Duty of Civil Disobedience"),1849
Wikipedia über Henry David Thoreau
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