“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, 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 be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”
Henry David Thoreau’s American spiritual masterpiece Walden; Or, Life in the Woods was published on this day in 1854.
While there are some who make light of the fact during his sojourn he was never far from home and frequently had dinner at his Mother’s, there is in this book something compelling and powerful, an American Taoism, if you will. And, without a doubt, an influence in the lives of many spiritual seekers in the years to follow. Me, among them.
A fair number of his readers would go on to find the Buddhadharma. Me, among them.
These days not a year goes by without my making a small personal pilgrimage to Walden’s pond, circumambulating it, stopping to add a small pebble to the cairn near the site where his shack stood.
Sometimes I burn a small stick of incense there, and wish good travels for this pilgrim on his way.