Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Walden

Over the last few weeks I've been dipping in and out of Walden by Henry David Thoreau, much like Thoreau himself dipping in Walden Pond! Thoreau's prose is beautifully constructed, but it's the prophetic quality of his observations of life in the mid-19th century that I find most striking. Walden was published in 1854. Early in the work, Thoreau muses on the the importance of shelter for life...

No man ever stood the lower in my estimation for having a patch in his clothes; yet I am sure that there is greater anxiety, commonly, to have fashionable, or at least clean and unpatched clothes, than to have a sound conscience. Henry David Thoreau

In the savage state every family owns a shelter as good as the best, and sufficient for its coarser and simpler wants; but I think that I speak within bounds when I say that, though the birds of the air have their nests, and the foxes their holes, and the savages their wigwams, in modern civilized society not more than one-half the families own a shelter. In the large towns and cities, where civilization especially prevails, the number of those who own a shelter is a very small fraction of the whole. The rest pay an annual tax for this outside garment of all, become indispensable summer and winter, which would buy a village of Indian wigwams, but now helps to keep them poor as long as they live. Henry David Thoreau