Thoreau’s Walden was one of the books I read at a pivotal point in my life, and certain quotes have stuck with me.
“I went to the woods 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, to discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. 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, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and to be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”
Truth and experience… two themes of my life. At least some credit has to go to Thoreau for my identifying myself as a truth-seeker. Be it mean or sublime, just give it to me straight. This quote is a bit melodramatic, but it spoke to me at a time of my life when everything seemed melodramatic. I felt like I understood what drove him to the woods.
“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; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. 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. 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.”
This second quote is more close to my heart. I’ve had most of it memorized for many years now… starting with the “In proportion” part. I was attracted to the notion of simplifying my life and this relates to the first quote about truth. And the castles in the air had clear resonance for a dreamer like me.
How can anyone go wrong with truth and simplicity?