Walden quotes, ch. 1 Economy

I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience.

…something about your outward condition or circumstances in this world, especially your outward condition or circumstances in this world, in this town, what it is, whether it is necessary that it be as bad as it is, whether it cannot be improved as well as not. I have travelled a good deal in Concord; and everywhere, in shops, and offices, and fields, the inhabitants have appeared to me to be doing penance in a thousand remarkable ways.

But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon plowed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool’s life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before.

The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly.

It is very evident what mean and sneaking lives many of you live, for my sight has been whetted by experience; always on the limits, trying to get into business and trying to get out of debt, a very ancient slough, called by the Latins aes alienum, another’s brass, for some of their coins were made of brass; still living, and dying, and buried by this other’s brass; always promising to pay, promising to pay, to-morrow, and dying to-day, insolvent; seeking to curry favor, to get custom, by how many modes, only not state-prison offenses; lying, flattering, voting, contracting your selves into a nutshell of civility…

Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate.

As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.

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

What old people say you cannot do, you try and find that you can. Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new… I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors… Here is life, an experiment to a great extent untried by me; but it does not avail me that they have tried it.

Undoubtedly the very tedium and ennui which presume to have exhausted the variety and the joys of life are as old as Adam. But man’s capacities have never been measured; nor are we to judge of what he can do by any precedents, so little has been tried. Whatever have been thy failures hitherto, “be not afflicted, my child, for who shall assign to thee what thou hast left undone?

We should live in all the ages of the world in an hour; ay, in all the worlds of the ages. History, Poetry, Mythology!–I know of no reading of another’s experiences so startling and informing as this would be.

The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?

How vigilant we are! determined not to live by faith if we can avoid it; all the day long on the alert, at night we unwillingly say our prayers and commit ourselves to uncertainties. So thoroughly and sincerely are we compelled to live, reverencing our life, and denying the possibility of change. This is the only way, we say; but there are as many ways as there can be drawn radii from one centre. All change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every instant.

…for while Food may be regarded as the Fuel which keeps up the fire within us,–and Fuel serves only to prepare that Food or to increase the warmth of our bodies by addition from without,–Shelter and Clothing also serve only to retain the heat thus generated and absorbed. The grand necessity, then, for our bodies, is to keep warm, to keep the vital heat in us.

In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and the future, which is precisely the present moment; to toe that line.

from Walden, by Henry David Thoreau

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