Study Guide

Walden Quotes

By Henry David Thoreau

  • Man and the Natural World

    Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito's wing that falls on the rails. (Where I Lived.22)

    Thoreau tells us he went to the woods to "live deliberately," and this quote explains that Nature itself can provide a model for how to do just that.

    Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe, through Paris and London, through New York and Boston and Concord, through church and state, through poetry, philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call <em>reality</em> (Where I Lived.22)

    Natural metaphors are everywhere in Walden. Prejudice and opinion aren't literally made out of mud, but, by comparing them to mud, we get a sense of how difficult it can be to get past them. This would be a really easy place to make a Thoreau-is-a-stick-in-the-mud joke, but we like the guy, so we'll keep quiet.

    In the midst of a gentle rain while these thoughts prevailed, I was suddenly sensible of such sweet and beneficent society in Nature, in the very pattering of the drops, and in every sound and sight around my house, an infinite and unaccountable friendliness all at once like an atmosphere sustaining me, as made the fancied advantage of human neighborhood insignificant (Solitude.4)

    Our author will often personify Nature, as in this quote, where he gives it the human quality of "friendliness." Have you ever thought of Nature as friendly, or, on the other hand, mean or distant?

    What right had I to oust johnswort and the rest, and break up their ancient herb garden? (Bean-Field.1)

    Thoreau is hesitant about gardening. In order to clear ground for his fields, he has to uproot the native plant species of the area. (Yes, johnswort = St. John's wort. You've probably seen the commercials.) Once again, people are making a living off of the natural world that Thoreau loves.

    There have been caught in Walden, pickerel, one weighing seven pounds, to say nothing of another which carried off a reel with great velocity […] perch, and pouts, some of each weighing over two pounds, shiners, chivins, or roach, (<em>Leuciscus puchellus</em>,) a very few breams, (<em>Pomotis obesus</em>,) one trout weighing a little over five pounds (Ponds.14)

    <em>Walden </em>contains some meticulous documenting of all the different species that live in the area. Thoreau often takes on a naturalist's scientific tone, as here, where he cites the genus and species of the fish. Don't worry, though, these scientific moments are mixed up with more poetic or literary moments, making <em>Walden </em>a rather varied read.

    A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature. (Ponds.16)

    By personifying nature, Thoreau can more easily show how it can be a source of inspiration and enlightenment. Naturally, we relate more easily to things like us, so giving nature some human characteristics allows us to better understand it.

    My Muse may be excused if she is silent henceforth. How can you expect the birds to sing when their groves are cut down? (Ponds.23)

    A Muse is the person or thing that inspires a poet's work. So, Thoreau bemoans the fact that many of the woods around Walden Pond have been chopped up, because there's nothing left for a poet to celebrate. We should conserve nature not only for ecological reasons, but for literary ones as well.

    Grow wild according to thy nature, like these sedges and brakes, which will never become English hay. (Baker Farm.8)

    Thoreau's nature is "wild," not the kind of domesticated nature you might find in a farm or a park – or a petting zoo.

    The hare in its extremity cries like a child. I warn you, mothers, that my sympathies do not always make the usual phil-<em>anthropic</em> distinctions. (Higher Laws.3)

    Like many vegetarians, Thoreau won't eat meat because he feels that animals experience pain and suffering just as humans do.

    We are conscious of an animal in us, which awakens in proportion as our higher nature slumbers. It is reptile and sensual, and perhaps cannot be wholly expelled; like the worms which, even in life and health, occupy our bodies. (Higher Laws.11)

    While most of the time "nature" stands for all that is good in the world, there are times, such as this, when Thoreau speaks of our animal nature in negative terms.

    This was his looning, -- perhaps the wildest sound that is ever heard here, making the woods ring far and wide. I concluded that he laughed in derision of my efforts, confident of his own resources. (Brute Neighbors.17)

    Thoreau often personifies animals as well. Here, Thoreau gets out-witted by a loon. Before you laugh, try and catch one yourself.

    I would that our farmers when they cut down a forest felt some of that awe which the old Romans did when they came to thin, or let light to, a consecrated grove, (<em>lucum conlucare</em>) that is, would believe that it is sacred to some god. (House-Warming.13)

    According to Thoreau, we should conserve nature because it is sacred and necessary to humanity. Nature isn't something to be used irresponsibly. It seems that, at a point in history, humans were aware of this, but we've since lost that lovin' feeling.

  • Life, Consciousness, and Existence

    Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them. (Economy.6)

    Thoreau wants his readers to reconsider what freedom and liberty really mean. Surely working day in and day out doesn't qualify. We need to wake up and take advantage of the privileges we have as Americans.

    Nature and human life are as various as our several constitutions. Who shall say what prospect life offers to another? Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant? (Economy.14)

    Our author celebrates different lifestyles, and thinks that conformity is positively unnatural. He would definitely not be a fan of peer pressure.

    By the words, <em>necessary of life</em>, I mean whatever, of all that man obtains by his own exertions, he has been from the first, or from long use has become, so important to human life that few, if any, whether from savageness, or poverty, or philosophy, ever attempt to do without it. (Economy.17)

    It's kind of a long definition of "necessary," but Thoreau has to be this precise for an audience that's lost touch with what necessity really is. For us, the necessaries in life might be family, friends, and a WiFi connection. For Thoreau, it's food, shelter, clothing, and fuel.

    I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle-dove, and am still on their trail. (Economy.4)

    Thoreau writes about these three animals in such an allegorical way that it's hard to determine whether he ever actually had them all (an odd menagerie) or whether they are merely symbols. If they do symbolize something, what do they symbolize? Some spiritual truth? Worldly goods?

    I went to the wood because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. (Where I Lived.16)

    This is perhaps the clearest statement of what Thoreau is trying to do at Walden Pond.

    Our life is frittered away by detail […] Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! (Where I Lived.17)

    Thoreau wants to get rid of all unnecessary "details," to simplify his life to the point where he can get at the truth of what living really means.

    Ancient poetry and mythology suggest, at least, that husbandry was once a sacred art; but it is pursued with irreverent haste and needlessness by us, our object being to have large farms and large crops merely. (Bean-Field.15)

    Here we get an explanation as to why Thoreau decides to farm his small plot. He doesn't do it for food, since he doesn't eat beans. Instead, he does it because it is a "sacred art," a mode by which he can attain some spiritual truth. Who would have guessed the spiritual powers of the tooting fruit?

    The earth is not a mere fragment of dead history, stratum upon stratum like the leaves of a book, to be studied by geologists and antiquaries chiefly, but living poetry like the leaves of a tree, which precede flowers and fruit – not a fossil earth, but a living earth; compared with whose great central life all animal and vegetable life is merely parasitic. (Spring.9)

    It is through nature that Thoreau will attempt to discover the truth of life. In this passage, Nature is literally a book, "living poetry." When we think of poetry, we think of poets (humans, usually). So, whatever truth is, it likely has something to do with the correspondence between Nature and man.

    Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it. We need the tonic of wildness (Spring.25)

    Here, wildness is described as if it were a kind of anti-depressant. Aha! Now the St. John's wort thing makes much more sense.

    Why level downward to our dullest perception always, and praise this as common sense? The commonest sense is the sense of men asleep, which they express by snoring. (Conclusion.8)

    Thoreau feels that too many of us live at the level of "dullest perception." We're stuck in the conventional, the normal. We may as well be asleep, if we don't question and challenge what everybody else considers to be "common sense."

  • Society and Class

    Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hinderances to the elevation of mankind. (Economy.19)

    Worldly goods distract us from spiritual "elevation." Mo' money, mo' problems.

    I cannot believe that our factory system is the best mode by which men may get clothing. The conditions of the operatives is becoming every day more like that of the English (Economy.41)

    This is an attack on one symptom of industrialization: the inhumane conditions of working in a factory. Sadly, this is still an issue in some countries even today.

    But how happens it that he who is said to enjoy these things is so commonly a <em>poor </em>civilized man, while the savage, which has them not, is rich as a savage? […] 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. (Economy.45)

    Thoreau questions whether civilization is all that great if so many people still remain poor.

    The civilized man is a more experienced and wiser savage. (Economy.57)

    "Civilization" doesn't necessarily mean the same thing as being enlightened. In modern times, according to Thoreau, civilization is just another word for making money.

    Most of the stone a nation hammers goes toward its tomb only. It buries itself alive. (Economy.78)

    Thoreau questions whether American society, and any other nationalistic society, is headed down the right road. Should a nation be interested merely in becoming economically and militarily powerful? Or should it have other goals? This is something that Americans and other world citizens still struggle with to this day. Way to stay relevant, Thoreau.

    The customs of some savage nations might, perchance, be profitably imitated by us, for they at least go through the semblance of casting their slough annually. (Economy.91)

    One "savage" custom Thoreau wants to revive is the busk, where people get rid of their old possessions. It would free people of attachment to their worldly goods (and make a really good reality TV show, don't you think?).

    Instead of noblemen, let us have noble villages of men. (Reading.11)

    Thoreau offers his own version of an ideal society: a village devoted entirely to learning.

    These cellar dents, like deserted fox burrows, old holes, are all that is left where once were the stir and bustle of human life, and "fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute," in some form and dialect or other were by turns discussed. (Former Inhabitants.12)

    Seeing these remnants of past human residences, Thoreau wonders what is really permanent and eternal in human life. Why spend so much effort gaining wealth and building a huge house if it's all going to disappear one day? As they say, you can't take it with you.

    Nay, be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought […] Explore thyself. (Conclusion.2)

    Instead of exploring for new lands to exploit and colonize, Thoreau directs his readers to explore themselves.

    [Man] must maintain himself in whatever attitude he finds 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. (Conclusion.3)

    Just because the government says something is law, doesn't mean that it's just. Thoreau believes that a personal sense of justice overrides obedience to law. That might get you thrown in jail (as it does for him when he doesn't pay his poll tax), but he stands by it.

    How worn and dusty, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity! (Conclusion.4)

    Thoreau sees tradition and conformity as powerful tools society uses to keep people from discovering spiritual truths.

  • Wisdom

    It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. (Economy.10)

    Thoreau wants us to challenge our beliefs, to put them to the test of personal judgment and experience. The proof is in the pudding.

    Confucius said, "To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge." When one man has reduced a fact of the imagination to be a fact of his understanding, I foresee that all men will at length establish their lives on that basis. (Economy.15)

    Wisdom entails not only knowledge, but also a sense of the <em>limits</em> of our understanding.

    To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically. (Economy.19)

    Wisdom isn't about schools of philosophy or religion. It is about putting into practice the principles you believe in. You may be able to talk the talk, but you've also got to walk the walk.

    I mean that [students] should not <em>play </em>life, or <em>study </em>it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly <em>live </em>it from beginning to end. How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living. (Economy.72)

    Real education can't be achieved in a classroom. It has to be lived and practiced. You know what this means: lots of field trips. (By the way, Walt Whitman totally agreed. Check out his poem "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer.")

    I want the flower and fruit of a man; that some fragrance be wafted over from him to me, and some ripeness flavor our intercourse. His goodness must not be a partial and transitory act, but a constant superfluity, which costs him nothing and of which he is unconscious.

    Wisdom also appears to have an "unconscious" element to it. People can be wise without knowing that they're wise or talking like a philosopher. Wisdom is synonymous with "goodness," not book learning.

    Men esteem truth remote, in the outskirts of the system, behind the farthest star, before Adam and after the last man. In eternity there is indeed something true and sublime. But all these times and places and occasions are now and here. (Where I Lived.21)

    Thoreau wants his readers to know that enlightenment isn't just for people who have the time and means to run off into the woods. Possibilities for discovering truth are everywhere.

    A written word is the choicest of relics. It is something at once more intimate with us and more universal than any other work of art. It is the work of art nearest to life itself. (Reading.4)

    Here, Thoreau is essentially describing what he's trying to do with his book, which is both "intimate" and personal, and gestures toward the "universal" and collective. Shmoop is now thinking of changing its tagline: "Shmoop: the choicest of relics." Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

    Perhaps the facts most astounding and most real are never communicated by man to man. The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. (Higher Laws.7)

    Here's why wisdom can't be taught: words just can't do it justice. It's something that you live on a deeply personal, even perhaps unconscious ("intangible and indescribable") level.

    What I have observed of the pond is no less true in ethics […] Perhaps we need only to know how his shores trend and his adjacent country or circumstances to infer his depth and concealed bottom. (Pond in Winter.13)

    This is one of Thoreau's more outlandish suggestions – have you ever tried to measure your "shores"? Hmmm... maybe that's the point.

    <em>Extra vagance! </em>[…] I desire to speak somewhere <em>without </em>bounds; like a man in a waking moment, to men in their waking moments, for I am convinced that I cannot exaggerate enough to lay the foundation of a true expression. (Conclusion.7)

    Thoreau often uses the metaphor of waking to describe what true enlightenment feels like.

  • Isolation

    I had this advantage, at least, in my mode of life, over those who were obliged to look abroad for amusement, to society and the theater, that my life itself was become my amusement and never ceased to be novel. (Sounds.3)

    Who needs Perez Hilton? Thoreau is his own best entertainment.

    I am no more lonely than a single mullein or dandelion in a pasture, or a bean leaf, or sorrel, or a horse-fly, or a bumble-bee. (Solitude.15)

    Thoreau doesn't feel alone in nature. He's as much a part of its world as a leaf or a flower.

    Not till we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations. (Village.2)

    Our author feels that he has to abandon "the world," including human society, in order to discover himself. Do you agree? Can we find ourselves without abandoning everything else?

    If, by living thus reserved and austere, like a hermit in the woods, so long, it has acquired such wonderful purity, who would not regret that the comparatively impure waters of Flint's Pond should be mingled with it, or itself should ever go to waste its sweetness in the ocean wave? (Ponds.27)

    Thoreau describes Walden Pond itself as a kind of hermit, setting up an analogy between himself and its pure waters – very clever.

    House, … $28.12 ½
    Farm one year, …$14.72 ½
    Food eight months, … $8.74
    Clothing, &c., eight months … $8.40 ¾
    Oil, &c., eight months, … $2.00
    In all,….$61.99 ¾ (Economy.50)

    This meticulous account of Thoreau's expenses shows us how much (or how little) it costs to live alone. That reminds us, we've been meaning to come up with a personal budget.

    I was as near being resolved into the essence of things as ever I was in my life. I fear my thoughts will not come back to me […] There never is but one opportunity of a kind. (Brute Neighbors.5)

    These are the words of the hermit in a dialogue with the poet at the start of Chapter 2. The Hermit comes across as a silly man, easily distracted from the "essence of things" by a fishing trip. Could this be a reminder, perhaps, never to take yourself <em>too </em>seriously?

    Nowadays the host does not admit you to <em>his </em>hearth, but has got the mason to build one for yourself somewhere in his alley, and hospitality is the art of <em>keeping </em>you at the greatest distance. (House-Warming.7)

    Thoreau thinks the loneliest people are those immersed in society. That big house isn't a sign of prosperity; instead, it's built to keep the guests at a distance from the host. Thoreau would have probably enjoyed <em>Apples to Apples</em> or <em>Cranium</em> – anything to keep the party interactions going strong.

    For human society I was obliged to conjure up the former occupants of these woods. (Former Inhabitants.1)

    Thoreau is at his most alone in the winter (and not only because he doesn't have snow tires to get anywhere). This gives him a chance to ruminate on the other past inhabitants of the area

    When the snow lay deepest, no wanderer ventured near my house for a week or a fortnight at a time, but there I lived as snug as a meadow mouse (Former Inhabitants.16)

    Animal comparisons such as this emphasize how in tune with nature Thoreau has become.

    In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. (Conclusion.6)

    This statement offers a kind of summing up of what Thoreau accomplished in his private experiment.

  • Happiness

    The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. (Economy.9)

    Most people are miserable, even when they appear to be content. They're stuck in a rut, working for luxuries that they cannot afford. Way to be a total downer, Thoreau.

    When we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence – that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of the reality. (Where I Lived.21)

    For Thoreau, spiritual enlightenment isn't just about knowledge. It's a complete mood-changer, getting you in touch with the true pleasures in life.

    The result [of reading trashy books] is dullness of sight, a stagnation of the vital circulations, and a general deliquium and sloughing off of all the intellectual faculties. (Reading.7)

    We need good books in order to refine our ability to be happy. Trashy books only dull our senses, turning us into virtual zombies.

    This is a delicious evening, when the whole body is one sense, and imbibes delight through every pore. (Solitude.1)

    Nature is a source of sensory pleasure. Thoreau's word choices – for instance, "delicious" and "imbibes" – help us to further grasp that feeling.

    Nothing can rightly compel a simple and brave man to a vulgar sadness. While I enjoy the friendship of the seasons, nothing can make life a burden to me. (Solitude.4)

    Thoreau can seem resolutely cheerful. Is it really possible that <em>nothing </em>can make life a burden? Is he indifferent to the genuine pain and suffering that many people experience?

    At suitable intervals there were regular salutes of laughter, which might have been referred indifferently to the last uttered or the forth-coming jest. (Former Inhabitants.20)

    Translation: we cracked the heck up. True friends are also a source of happiness.

    We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us […] and did not spend our days in atoning for the neglect of past opportunities, which we call our duty. We loiter in winter while it is already spring. In a pleasant spring morning, all men's sins are forgiven. (Spring.19)

    Spring isn't just a season, for Thoreau. It's a state of mind – a Walden state of mind.

    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. (Conclusion.5)

    In the last chapter, Thoreau is much more explicit about what his readers can take away from his personal experiment. For this reason, we get the sense that we're not reading just an autobiography, but also a kind of manual for living.

    However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are […] Love your life, poor as it is. (Conclusion.14)

    Yet another moment where Thoreau points out to his readers what the implications of his personal experience can be for them.

    It is life near the bone where it is sweetest. (Conclusion.15)

    Here, Thoreau refers to a principle that chefs know well: keep the meat on the bone to maintain its flavor. Of course, as a vegetarian, Thoreau's being metaphorical here.

  • Visions of America: Antebellum Period

    I sometimes wonder that we can be so frivolous, I may almost say, as to attend to the gross but somewhat foreign form of servitude called N**** Slavery, there are so many keen and subtle masters that enslave both north and south. It is hard to have a southern overseer; it is worse to have a northern one; but worst of all when you are the slave-driver of yourself. (Economy.9)

    Thoreau was strongly anti-slavery. That "almost" ("I may <em>almost </em>say") suggests that he knows himself that he might be making a rather questionable claim here. For most people, being the "slave-driver of yourself" would have still been preferable to being a slave to somebody else, by whatever standard. Thoreau's just not most people, though.

    The man who has actually paid for his farm with labor on it is so rare that every neighbor can point to him. I doubt if there are three such men in Concord. (Economy.49)

    Here, our author laments the fact that farming is no longer done for survival, but for profit. Farmers – including Thoreau's own neighbors and friends – are thus led into debt.

    It is a mistake to suppose that, in a country where the usual evidences of civilization exist, the condition of a very large body of the inhabitants may not be as degraded as that of savages. (Economy.52)

    Thoreau criticizes the wide gap between the rich and the poor. Not everyone is enjoying the benefits of industrialization. The wealth gap is a huge issue even today, and something that a lot of brilliant men and women – like Thoreau – spend a lot of brainpower trying to resolve.

    What do we want most to dwell near to? Not to many men surely, the depot, the post-office, the bar-room, the meeting-house, the school-house, the grocery, Beacon Hill, or the Five Points, where men most congregate, but to the perennial source of our life (Solitude.5)

    This statement gives us a sense of what the main centers of town life were like in the 19th century, including the railroad depot, and such notable urban areas as Beacon Hill in Boston and Five Points in New York City. What would this list look like if it were written today? Starbucks would definitely be on there, that's for sure.

    [R]unaway slaves with plantation manners, who listened from time to time, like the fox in the fable, as if they heard the hounds a-baying on their track, and looked at me beseechingly (Visitors.16)

    Thoreau describes the runaway slaves in Concord sympathetically. He truly feels for them. What's more, he put this sympathy into action, by protesting the law that dictated that any slaves caught in the North had to be returned to their owners in the South.

    As I drew a still fresher soil about the rows with my hoe, I disturbed the ashes of unchronicled nations who in primeval years lived under these heavens (Bean-Field.6)

    Evidence of Native American life is everywhere, reminding us that this area once sustained a community wiped out by European colonization.

    But sometimes it was a really noble and inspiring strain that reached these woods, and the trumpet that sings of fame, and I felt as if I could spit a Mexican with a good relish – for should we always stand for trifles? – and looked round for a woodchuck or a skunk to exercise my chivalry upon. (Bean-Field.9)

    This is one of Thoreau's silly moments. In reality, he was opposed to the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848.

    One afternoon, near the end of the first summer, when I went to the village to get a shoe from the cobbler's, 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 senatehouse. (Village.3)

    Thoreau relates here an incident where he was arrested for not paying his taxes, which he viewed as an act of protest against the government. He goes into this incident in more detail in the very famous essay "Civil Disobedience."

    With his horizon all his own, yet he a poor man, born to be poor, with his inherited Irish poverty or poor life, his Adam's grandmother and boggy ways, not to rise in this world, he nor his posterity, till their wading webbed bog-trotting feet get <em>talaria </em>to their heels. (Baker Farm.9)

    In the 19th century, there was a surge of Irish immigrants who were fleeing the potato famine in Ireland. Unfortunately, for an otherwise pretty enlightened guy, Thoreau seems to stick to stereotypical representations of the Irish as unintelligent.

    I delight to come to my bearings, -- not walk in procession with pomp and parade, in a conspicuous place, but to walk even with the Builder of the universe, if I may, -- not to live in this restless, nervous, bustling, trivial Nineteenth Century, but stand or sit thoughtfully while it goes by. (Conclusion.15)

    "Restless, nervous, bustling, trivial Nineteenth Century": that's how Thoreau views America's rapid industrialization – harsh.

  • Technology and Modernization

    [Man] has no time to be anything but a machine. (Economy.6)

    Technology has a way of dehumanizing the people who use it. Thoreau would probably say that nature, on the other hand, makes us more human.

    Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. (Economy.72)

    What would Thoreau have made of the pretty toys we call iPhones?

    Men think that it is essential that the <em>Nation </em>have commerce, and export ice, and talk through a telegraph, and ride thirty miles an hour, without a doubt, whether <em>they </em>do or not; but whether we should live like baboons or like men, is a little uncertain. (Where I Lived.17)

    Thoreau questions our priorities. Should we really be spending our lives trying to ride a zippy at thirty miles an hour, or should we instead turn to the real tough questions about life?

    If one may judge who rarely looks into the newspapers, nothing new does ever happen in foreign parts, a French Revolution not excepted. (Where I Lived.19)

    Thoreau often exaggerates, as he does here when he describes the French Revolution as a non-event. We'd say radical changes in European politics and the loss of thousands of lives qualifies as an event.

    Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. (Where I Lived.23)

    Thoreau's sense of time is attuned to nature, where the pace is much slower, and more human.

    The startings and arrivals of the cars are now the epochs in the village day. They go and come with such regularity and precision, and their whistles can be heard so far, that the farmers set their clocks by them, and thus one well conducted institution regulates a whole country. (Sounds.10)

    The railroad is so all-pervasive that it has even corrupted our sense of time. Can you think of any, even more modern inventions that have played with our sense of time?

    [T]he villagers, who scarcely know where it lies, instead of going to the pond to bathe or drink, are thinking to bring its water, which should be as sacred as the Ganges at least, to the village in a pipe, to wash their dishes with! – to earn their Walden by the turning of a cock or drawing of a plug! That devilish Iron Horse […] has mudded the Boiling Spring with his foot (Ponds.25)

    With modernization, villagers are also losing touch with nature. Without working with nature using our own bare hands, we can't truly have a deep understanding of it – hands-on learning at its best.

    In October I went a-graping to the river meadows […] by the first of September, I had seen two or three maples turned scarlet […] The wasps came by thousands to my lodge in October (House-Warming.1-3)

    Thoreau often makes a note of seasonal changes in the area. There's nothing like a New England fall, that's for sure.

    One attraction in coming to the woods to live was that I should have the leisure and opportunity to see the spring come in. (Spring.3)

    Free of technology, Thoreau can really slow down and appreciate nature.

    As he made no compromise with Time, Time kept out of his way, and only sighed at a distance because he could not overcome him. (Conclusion.11)

    The artist of Kouroo described in this quote has completely transcended time simply by devoting himself to the craft of something perfect – here, a simple staff. There's a psychological term for what happened to him, called <em>flow</em>. It's when you're completely enveloped in something (anything from driving to writing to good conversation) that you completely lose yourself in the moment. We've all felt