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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Solitude and Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) is the most representative non-religious Westerner to comprehend solitude and the hermit life. His philosophy of transcendentalism, which paralleled romanticism but was free of its excesses and defects, combined with his scholarly attitude and astute observations on society, politics, and nature, make Thoreau's writings essential to a contemporary application of solitude and the eremitic life. Add to this his willingness to experience this life, his natural curiosity into nature and human psychology, and his very readable style, as reflected by this series of aphorisms from his various writings, and Thoreau offers a perennial voice.

I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.-- Walden

By my intimacy with nature I find myself withdrawn from man. My interest in the sun and the moon, in the morning and the evening, compels me to solitude.-- Journal

I thrive best on solitude. If I have had a companion only one day in a week, unless it were one or two I could name, I find that the value of the week to me has been seriously affected. It dissipates my days, and often it takes me another week to get over it.-- Journal

I feel the necessity of deepening the stream of my life: I must cultivate privacy. It is very dissipating to be with people too much.-- Journal

I do not know if I am singular when I say that I believe there is no man with whom I can associate who will not, comparatively speaking, spoil my afternoon.--- Journal

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.-- Walden

Silence is the universal refuge, the sequel to all dull discourses and all foolish acts, a balm to our every chagrin, as welcome after satiety as after disappointment; that background which the painter may not daub, be he master or bungler, and which, however awkward a figure we may have made in the foreground, remains ever our inviolable asylum, where no indignity can assail, no personality disturb us.-- A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

The man I meet with is not often so instructive as the silence he breaks. -- Journal
I am tired of frivolous society, in which silence is forever the most natural and the best manners. I would fain walk on the deep waters, but my companions will only walk on shallows and puddles.-- Journal

Why will you waste so many regards on me, and not I of my silence? Infer from it what you might from the pine wood. It is its natural condition, except when the winds blow, and the jays scream, and the chickadee winds up his clock. My silence is just as inhuman as that, and no more.-- Familiar Letters

You think that I am impoverishing myself by withdrawing from men, but in my solitude I have woven for myself a silken web or chrysalis, and, nymph-like, shall ere long burst forth a more perfect creature, fitted for a higher society.-- Journal

From Thoreau, A Book of Quotations. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2000.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Miss Eagle.

    Informative posting - thank you.
    Obviously Thoreau was a bit of a grumpy old guy. But he made a major contribution to the America's understanding of the world - a kind of Proto-environmentalist.