This month, the Book Group met up to discuss Walden, by Henry David Thoreau.
About the Book:
Walden, by transcendentalist Thoreau, is a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings. It is a mixture of personal declaration of independence, social experiment, voyage of spiritual discovery, satire, and manual for self-reliance.
First published in 1854, it details Thoreau’s experiences over the course of two years, two months, and two days in a cabin he built near Walden Pond, amidst woodland near Concord, Massachusetts. The book compresses the time into a single calendar year and uses passages of four seasons to symbolize human development. By immersing himself in nature, Thoreau hoped to gain a more objective understanding of society through personal introspection.
“I had read ‘Walden’ once before but I don’t think I had really taken much in. My copy has an introduction by Bill McKibben which I found myself reading and rereading. He suggests that understanding ‘Walden’ is a ‘hopeless task’ as it can be read at so many levels. I found the second time, I enjoyed it so much more and so much more inspiring. It also prompted me to read more about the man and his biography helped to put much of ‘Walden’ in perspective. The following quote, not from ‘Walden’ but from Thoreau’s other writings I think particularly appropriate today:
We are to look chiefly for the origin of the commercial spirit, and the power that still cherishes and sustains it, in a blind and unmanly love of wealth. Wherever this exists, it is too sure to become the ruling spirit; and, as a natural consequence, it infuses into all our thoughts and affections a degree of its own selfishness; we become selfish in our patriotism, selfish in our domestic relations, selfish in our religion.
Let men, true to their natures, cultivate the moral affections, lead manly and independent lives; let them make riches the means and not the end of existence, and we shall hear no more of the commercial spirit. The sea will not stagnate, the earth will be as green as ever and the air as pure. This curious world which we inhabit is more wonderful than convenient; more beautiful than it is useful; it is more to be admired and enjoyed than used. The order of things should be somewhat reversed; the seventh should be man’s day of toil, where in to earn his living by the sweat of his brow; and the other six his sabbath of the affections and the soul,- in which to range this widespread garden, and drink in the soft influence and sublime revelations of nature.” – Lucy