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Walden & Civil Disobedience

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Henry David Thoreau's masterwork, Walden, is a collection of his reflections on life and society. His simple but profound musings—as well as Civil Disobedience, his protest against the government's interference with civil liberty—have inspired many to embrace his philosophy of individualism and love of nature.

320 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1849

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About the author

Henry David Thoreau

1,094 books5,578 followers
Henry David Thoreau (born David Henry Thoreau) was an American author, naturalist, transcendentalist, tax resister, development critic, philosopher, and abolitionist who is best known for Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay, Civil Disobedience, an argument for individual resistance to civil government in moral opposition to an unjust state.

Thoreau's books, articles, essays, journals, and poetry total over 20 volumes. Among his lasting contributions were his writings on natural history and philosophy, where he anticipated the methods and findings of ecology and environmental history, two sources of modern day environmentalism.

In 1817, Henry David Thoreau was born in Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard University in 1837, taught briefly, then turned to writing and lecturing. Becoming a Transcendentalist and good friend of Emerson, Thoreau lived the life of simplicity he advocated in his writings. His two-year experience in a hut in Walden, on land owned by Emerson, resulted in the classic, Walden: Life in the Woods (1854). During his sojourn there, Thoreau refused to pay a poll tax in protest of slavery and the Mexican war, for which he was jailed overnight. His activist convictions were expressed in the groundbreaking On the Duty of Civil Disobedience (1849). In a diary he noted his disapproval of attempts to convert the Algonquins "from their own superstitions to new ones." In a journal he noted dryly that it is appropriate for a church to be the ugliest building in a village, "because it is the one in which human nature stoops to the lowest and is the most disgraced." (Cited by James A. Haught in 2000 Years of Disbelief.) When Parker Pillsbury sought to talk about religion with Thoreau as he was dying from tuberculosis, Thoreau replied: "One world at a time."

Thoreau's philosophy of nonviolent resistance influenced the political thoughts and actions of such later figures as Leo Tolstoy, Mohandas K. Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. D. 1862.

More: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/tho...





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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,325 reviews
Profile Image for Dolors.
524 reviews2,177 followers
October 19, 2017
A naturalist, a transcendentalist or an individualist?
Thoreau’s principles could be labelled with the previous statutory concepts and yet none of them would suffice to provide a full description of him. He struck me as a man who didn’t want to be restricted by category; he chose experience and common sense as modus operandi to lead a deliberate lifestyle and to reach his own conclusions without meaning to inculcate them on others.

Walden is the result of Thoreau’s minute observations that he compiled while he lived in a rustic shed near a lake in Concort, Massachusets. Full of all kind of practical detail, the book is more than a diary but less than a philosophical abstraction. It arises as a fragmented tapestry of the meditations of a man concerned about his surroundings and the society to which he belongs, even if he makes a conscious effort to disentangle from his contemporary fellowmen in order to think straight, in order to stablish priorities without the social distractions attached to community living.
The idea that shines brighter in Thoreau’s discourse is that actions should be faithful mirrors of belief, so he decided to act consequently and he cut back comfort to be more in charge of his simple, frugal life. Man lives in constant stimulation to consume above his real needs according to a general interest that doesn’t necessarily correlate to his own.
It’s important not to mistake Thoreau’s aversion to frivolity with unfounded rejection of modernity or technological progress by default. He professes that man can achieve spiritual and physical serenity by contemplation of the natural world, and redefine the notion of welfare, which shouldn’t imply accumulating wealth, but rather making use of it only when it is required.
Austerity, self-reliance and a clearly defined frame of values are essential to write one’s destiny without giving way to external pressures. Thoreau’s “original experiment” doesn’t aspire to preach or to impose a guideline to create a following. Instead, it invites to reflect about the principles that rule our lives and question whether we are investing our limited time on what is really essential.

Far from being a grumpy hermit, Thoreau sings the praises of a good conversation and basks in the company of those with inquisitive minds, dismissing the lulling tonality of generalized academic discourse. Poet, philosopher and fisherman share equal positions in Thoreau’s mental horizon because they all have a close relationship with nature and they don’t take its precious gifts for granted.
Walden is in fact a hymn to the natural rhythms and seasons, to the trees and vegetation that blooms and decays in perfect communion with the birds and fauna that populate the wilderness. The pond is the ever-present witness to Thoreau’s unusual moral firmness, to the authenticity of his resolutions, and sometimes overwhelming culture that is exquisitely balanced out with his surprising sensitivity. Ice melting into transparent-blue water that later acquires a greenish tint when the spring sun hauls the earth finds the ideal recipient in Thoreau’s ideals of justice and beauty.

Personally, I might not fully agree with everything that Thoreau exposes in this work, his reasoning might end up being repetitive and it runs the risk of sounding a bit like postulating, but I can’t help but admire the man who knew how to include as much poetry in his life as life in literature and inspire future generations to fight for what they believe is right.
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
769 reviews3,498 followers
December 7, 2019
Finding freedom from consumerism and opportunism in harmony with nature.

The principle of living in harmony with nature has been a topic for a long time until civilization alienated people from their original homeland. However, especially this opens up the possibility for introspection and reflection with the help of the simple life before apparently essential things like consumption, status and power lose their appeal.

Thoreau shows how a needless life can be filled with happiness and meaning by getting satisfaction from oneself, one's creativity and the people and nature around and not by the eternal hunt for the imposed, changing ideals of society. Such as "Go into the cave of the enemies and kill them all with a club, so that you can have fun in the hereafter with your comrades who have fallen in battle and massively amounts of willing women and whatever drug we allow you to consume."

Alternatively, "Learn stupidly from senseless, non-creatively applicable knowledge to make you highly specialized until up into old age." "Consume with accumulated capital and build up your righteous free time for ritualized buying decisions. "Neglect family and friends and ignore the state of the planet that is so friendly to allow you to live on it. "

Unfortunately, the utopian approaches have too often been negatively connoted and presented as impossible. After the dictate that such a world would not be possible. Wars are possible. Fiat money is no problem. But distributive justice with an education system that makes children responsible and happy citizens with environmental awareness? Better not.

Nonviolent education was another cornerstone of Thoreau's ideology. At a time when everyone was considered weak, who did not beat children to the bone until blood came out. According to standard doctrine, you had to form these empty shells with black pedagogy until they became, understandably, freaking lunatic religious extremists and fascists. Forcefully forge them like a glowing lump of metal with hammers without love to the instruments one needed to nourish the future generation with pain and cruelty.

This educational mentality could have had a not inconsiderable influence on inhumanity at all times, especially with extreme ideologies that gain more access when the majority of the population is from childhood on severely traumatized. When you do evil to innocent beings, teach cruelty and force them to lose all emotions to defend and protect themselves, you get the wished result.

The questioning of authorities was and is a stepchild of human behavior. Therefore, Thoreau warned that, even in democracies, one should never bow submissively to majority decisions without questioning them critically. He allowed people the right to protest against bad decisions and to not be forced into a silent consensus. In addition to a pioneer of environmental protection and non-violent pedagogy, he can, therefore, be seen as an icon of the civil rights movement, passive resistance and civil disobedience.

His inspirational ideas have influenced icons of freedom movement over the centuries and in the explosive current world situation, they show their visionary power and the potential for the full development of humanist ideas. If everyone lived that way, sustainable existence and peaceful coexistence with nature would be easily possible. The satisfaction with the most essential and the inward turn, rather than longing for ephemeral, mundane consumerism.

A wiki walk can be as refreshing to the mind as a walk through nature in this completely overrated real-life outside books:
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,535 reviews1,791 followers
July 26, 2017
This book alerted me to the fickleness of my own opinions.

At first it all seemed rather nice "the majority of men live lives of quiet desperation" and all that. But then I found out about the doughnuts.

Apparently every so often Thoreau would walk down the road to the nearby town where his Mum lived and she would treat him to doughnuts. Thoreau in Walden doesn't mention the doughnuts, instead detailing the amount of beans he grew but for me the doughnuts torpedo the project in three ways.

Firstly in crude calorific terms, secondly by underlining how Thoreau's experiment in independence is possible only within the context of his dependence on society both in the sense of the goods that the wider society produced and in the sense of social interaction, thirdly it presents his conversation with the passing Irishman and his family in a different light - what Thoreau shows us inadvertently is not the contrast between life in the woods and life as a wage slave but the contrast between a life of being born into privilege, in which one has the personal connections that allows one to live on someone else's land and eat doughnuts without have to earn the money to buy them, and not having privilege in society. What Thoreau could do was impossible for the Irishman and his family who he looks down on.

To clarify slightly following on from comments below, I'm not interested in the question of hypocrisy. What I see is that Thoreau lived an experiment but published false results. Despite what ever he may write to the contrary while man can live in the woods, it is not sufficient. Even the most reclusive of men are social animals, even though they deny it, one does not escape Aristotle quite so easily .

Another reading might be that even if wood dwelling was a reasonable possibility for all people, Thoreau's experiment demonstrates the need for centres of doughnut production within easy walking distance of even the most widely scattered hermits. And if we need doughnut production, it follows we require a social and economic apparatus that enables it. But Thoreau, despite how dear doughnuts were to him, doesn't want to admit to this in his writing. On reflection, and at my advanced age, I find this sad, self denying. Perhaps Thoreau intuited that there could be no reconciliation between doughnut eating and a life of freedom when the former involved slavery , international trade, coercive labour management, ecological upheaval, a technically developing society and so on. Perhaps this is one reason why we speak of "the American Dream" rather than the American reality.

Having said all that he also has many beautiful things to say about nature and living a life with intention and integrity. But as a reader we can enjoy his doughnuts and have them a little salted
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
15 reviews
August 18, 2007
Walden: I take issue with a wealthy man living in a shack for a period and pretending that living one mile from town and having his mother do his laundry qualifies him to advise mankind to "sell your clothes and keep your thoughts."

An experiment in simplicity, getting close to nature, I'm all for it. But when your experiment ends in a renewal of your previous lifestyle, how can you advise others to make changes that would leave them in the position permanently?
Profile Image for James.
32 reviews4 followers
June 24, 2007
I often credit this book with my philosophical awakening. Thoreau presents a criticism of modern life, technology, economy, and wasteful culture from the perspective of one who has simplified his life and experienced something much closer to real independence than any other modern man. Some have criticized him for not being truly and completely independent - he lived on Emerson's property, he visited friends for the occasional dinner, he washed his clothes at his mother's house - but I think these criticisms miss the point. Total and complete self-reliance is impossible in the modern world. Thoreau came closer than any other writer or philosopher of his time.

Read it for his pure and earnest love of nature, his witty and idiosyncratic style, his subtle humor, and his benediction to all of society that we always have an alternative to supporting an immoral status quo.
Profile Image for Dream.M.
434 reviews90 followers
January 18, 2023
این کتاب شامل جستارهای روزمره یک فیلسوف و ادیب قرن نوزدهم آمریکایی هستش که توی زمان خودش آدم گمنامی بوده ولی امروزه کتاب هاش، بخصوص همین کتاب والدن، از مهم‌ترین آثار ادبیات این کشوره.
جستارها پس از زندگی ثورو در کلبه جنگلی نوشته شدن و عقاید مختلف اقتصادی سیاسی اجتماعی و فلسفی اون رو دربرگرفته ان.
از نظر من، عقاید این ادیب خیلی رمانتیک و توی دنیای امروزی، حتی زمانه خودش، غیر عملی یا بعید بنظر میان. بیشتر آرمانگرایانه هستن. با اینحال خوندن شون روح و روان آدم رو جلا میده و ذهن رو آروم میکنه.

گمونم گفتم که زیباترین کتابیه که تاحالا داشتم و هدیه گرفتم ~(^ ^)~
Profile Image for Roy Lotz.
Author 1 book8,128 followers
July 30, 2017
How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book!

This month, two hundred years ago, Henry David Thoreau made his way into the world. Thus it seemed like a good time to revisit his thorny classic, which filled me with such contradictory feelings the first time around.

This time, I was struck first by how current Thoreau’s book reads. A vegetarian before it was fashionable, or even respectable; a pioneer of nature writing and conservationism; a godfather of activism and protest; an author of lines that, even now, wouldn’t be out of place in any self-help book; and the originator of the “stunt-book”—doing something unusual and then writing about it—anticipating both performance art and reality television in his classic account of his life “in the woods.”

It is very easy to dislike Thoreau, or even to despise him. Thoreau took himself very seriously. He comes across as pretentious and magnificently condescending, while at the same time as naïve as a child. For all his practicality, he was astoundingly impractical. His insistence that everyone in Concord learn enough Latin and Greek to read the classic texts is characteristic of him—a snobbish and pointless piece of advice, delivered with disdain. His authorial personality is so often prickly and misanthropic, rebuking the world at every turn, and this mood is never lightened by an easy humor. There is no Montaigne in this self-chronicler; instead, like Iago, he is nothing if not critical. You wonder if anything but loons and books ever pleased him. He was, in a word, a dour man.

The case against Thoreau is more serious than just his off-putting authorial personality. The most common charge made against him is that of hypocrisy. His book purports to be the record of a bold experiment in living in the woods. He describes how he built his own house, grew his own beans, baked his own bread, and rhapsodizes about the solitude and isolation he created for himself. But in reality he was living just 20 minutes from his ancestral home, squatting on land lent to him by his friend Emerson, and receiving frequent and plentiful visitors. Apparently he went home weekly to get cookies from his mother, who also kindly delivered doughnuts and pies to our hero. It is not reported whether he ate his cookies and doughnuts with milk.

This is a damning fact, considering that Thoreau carefully documents all of his expenses and goes into excruciating detail as to his eating habits—without mentioning a single cookie. He gives the impression that he was a hermit on the very edge of society, living on the produce he created, savoring his lonely retreat from the world. And all this is recorded with the stated intention of showing that self-sufficiency is possible. But if Thoreau himself can bear neither a diet of pure beans nor the stark isolation of true life in the woods, his whole experiment is a sham. It is one thing for an ordinary citizen to be hypocritical; it is another thing for a moralizing philosopher who repeatedly stresses the necessity of living in accordance with one’s tenets.

The case against Thoreau goes ever further than this. For, if his practice didn’t align with his preaching, his preaching didn’t align with his preaching either. Walden is a baffling bundle of contradictions. Did Thoreau like the steam engines or hate them? He excoriates them one moment, and the next he goes into rhapsodies about the locomotive. He praises hunting as a way of bringing oneself closer with nature, and then he condemns all killing and eating of animals. Here he is enjoining us to ignore fantasies and pay close attention to reality: “If men would steadily observe realities only, and not allow themselves to be deluded, life, to compare it with such things as we know, would be like a fairy tale and the Arabian Nights’ Entertainment.” And here he is telling us to do the opposite: “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.”

The perplexing thing about this inconsistency is that Thoreau never admits to hesitation or doubt. He rattles off his opinions with the fervor of a zealot. And yet even his zealotry is inconsistent, for it was Thoreau who famously said “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured and far away.” This famous paean to self-determination is ensconced in a book filled with biting scorn for those who do not agree with Thoreau. In all likelihood, Thoreau himself was the least tolerant man in Concord. Considering both his inconsistency in action and speech, it is difficult to know what exactly Thoreau, who is always urging us, is actually urging us to do.

But I think that a strong case can be made for Thoreau, too—especially now. For Walden has aged remarkably well. If anything, Thoreau’s classic has become even more relevant in our harried age.

Thoreau flees to the woods because of a growing horror with every aspect of his contemporary society—the unjust government, the growing consumerism, the obsession with technology, the increasing specialization of labor, the absorption of all leisure by work, the constant petty conversation, the disregard of wild nature. The sources of this horror are, I think, in part mysterious to even himself, which might be one explanation for his inconsistency. He is like a boxer swinging wildly at an invisible enemy, or a doctor prescribing medicines for an unknown malady. But to be fair, we haven’t gotten much closer to solving the problems that Thoreau tried to tackle with such spirit.

For my part, I think Thoreau’s instincts are right, even when his diagnoses and his cures are wrong. His abhorrence of economic exchange, of interdependence, is an excellent example. Modern society obviously could not exist without exchange; the economy would collapse if we all chose to live like Thoreau advocates, and technological innovation would come to a standstill. Yet Thoreau’s abhorrence of intedependence is neither political nor economic, but moral. He recognized quite clearly, I think, that in a complex economy, we are enmeshed in processes that have moral implications. When we buy a product, for example, we don’t know who made it or how they were treated. When we patronize a shop, we don’t know what the owner does with our money. When we throw something away, we don’t know where it ends up.

Since the morality of any action is partly determined by its effects, and since many of those effects are hidden from view in a complex economy, to a certain extent we can’t even know the morality of our own life. This is why it was so inspiriting for Thoreau to build his own cabin and farm his own food; he could be sure of his “ethical footprint,” so to speak, and so could take full responsibility for his actions. Now, I don’t think Thoreau wanted to do this for the sake of others—he is extremely wary of do-gooderism—but for himself, since we cannot live authentically if we cannot know the effects of our actions.

To borrow an idea from the philosopher John Lachs, this state of ignorance as to the sources and causes of our moral lives is one part of that modern alienation that Marxists have described. When jobs become highly specialized, we might not be completely sure about our own effects within the organization in which we work. I myself have been in that situation, churning out data to be used by unknown people for unknown ends. Everyone in a complex economy, even a commercial farmer, is in this situation. Thoreau's solution, isolating oneself in the woods, is I think undesirable—since it consists in dissolving society completely (which the misanthropic Thoreau might not have objected to)—but his experiment does at least help us to identify the causes of our “quiet desperation.”

Thoreau is also refreshing on the subject of work and leisure. The glorification of works carries with it the denigration of leisure, which Thoreau realized. When we consider only those activities as worthwhile that can make money for us, we spend our free hours in thoughtless relaxation or idling. And yet working, even if it is remunerative, is too often degrading—largely thanks to excessive specialization, which demands that we do the same thing over and over again, neglecting the full range of our capacities. Work consumes our time and energy and leaves us few moments for reflection and self-improvement. And because we consider leisure only a respite from work—since free time doesn’t pay, it is not for serious exertion—we do not even use what moments we have to achieve perspective and to develop our latent potential.

Again, Thoreau’s prescription for excessive work—to squat on someone else’s land and farm only the bare minimum—is disappointing and (pardon the pun) unworkable. And his advice for how to spend one’s free time—reading ancient books in the original language—is, at the very least, limited. But once again, his thrashing responses at least point the way to the malady that ails us, and his deadly seriousness can remind us to take our free time seriously and not squander it.

Thoreau is perhaps most valuable for his insistence on the time and space to think. Often it seems that the modern world is a conspiracy to prevent thinking. We work until we’re bone tired, and spend our free time in endless, meaningless small talk. Thoreau said: “We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.” Imagine if Thoreau could see us now, ceaselessly connected to each other with mobile telegraphs in our pockets, with scarcely anything more to say. The point, of course, is not that the telegraph is inherently bad—nor are smart phones for that matter—but that these things can easily become distractions, distractions in the existential sense, allowing idle chit-chat to intrude into every corner of our lives.

News also comes in for abuse. Too often we read the news, not with a genuine desire to learn about the world or to help us change it, but out of habit, worrying about distant problems that seldom affect us and that, in any case, we seldom try to solve. Sure, it is easy to dismiss Thoreau when he makes such dogmatic pronouncements as “To a philosophers, all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea.” Yet I know many for whom the news is an addiction, and consuming news is the full extent of their political engagement. (And I don’t think I’m any better in this regard.) Again, the point is not that we shouldn’t read the news, but that we should not let ourselves develop a false sense of urgency that prevents us from examining our own lives.

Thoreau demands space for genuine thought. But what is genuine thought? I think this is what Thoreau had in mind with his famous lines “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.” Genuine thought, in other words, is thinking about the best way to live—what is deeply and lastingly important to us, and what is only temporarily or superficially important. I personally have found that even a week of relative isolation can be clarifying. It is amazing how fast anxieties and problems melt away when we remove ourselves from our usual environment. We spend so much time worrying about how to get things that we don’t stop to wonder if we really want them. It is easy, too easy, to accept goals and priorities from our environment without scrutiny.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Thoreau was reacting against problems of the modern world, problems that have only become more pervasive. His solution, which I find extremely unconvincing, is to reject society completely—and in practice, his solution is only viable for well-connected, single men with no children. Thoreau achieves a kind of purity at the expense of advocating something that is totally non-viable for the vast majority of humanity. But reading his book was, for me, a clarifying and a rejuvenating experience—a reminder to consider the more important questions of life, and also a reminder that these questions can perhaps never be definitely answered.

You may disagree completely with me about the philosophical merit of Thoreau. But his skill as a writer is indisputable. This book is a magnificent monument of prose. Whether he is describing his beloved pond or narrating a battle of ants, his writing is clear, forceful, and direct; and his fingertips occasionally touch the sublime:
If you stand right fronting and face to face with a fact, you will see the sun glimmer on both its surfaces, as if it were a scimitar, and feel its sweet edge dividing you through the heart and marrow, and so you will happily conclude your mortal career. Be it life or death, we crave only reality.

Thoreau’s power as a writer, combined with his undeniable originality—anticipating all the things with which I opened this review, and more—will make this book last until Thoreau’s next centennial, even if sometimes he's an insufferable teenager.
Profile Image for David Lentz.
Author 17 books310 followers
April 28, 2017
Henry David Thoreau is best known as an American writer and transcendentalist who wanted first-hand to experience intuitively and understand profoundly the rapport between man and nature. In a sense Thoreau is Adam after the Fall living East of Eden as a bachelor in a humble cabin built beside Walden Pond by his own hands with tools borrowed from Concord neighbors and sustained by the fruits of a bean field sown in his garden and with resources granted to him by the wilderness. He wants to transcend inauthentic, everyday life in Concord and awaken his “over-soul” to the beauty and harmony of life by living mindfully in every moment in the subtly beckoning arms of the woods, ponds, rivers, seacoast and mountains of New England. “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 practise 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,” Thoreau writes in Walden in "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For." This deliberate action to immerse himself in nature would pulsate with a circadian rhythm throughout his brief, vibrant life as he canoed the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, walked the beaches of Cape Cod and traveled in the wilds of Maine with Native American guides. Thoreau studied at Harvard College between 1833 and 1837. Living in Hollis Hall, he read rhetoric, classics, philosophy, mathematics and science, and became a member of the Hasty Pudding Club. With his brother, John, they opened a grammar school in 1838 in Concord Academy but their school ended when John became fatally ill from tetanus in 1842 after cutting himself while shaving: John died in Henry's arms. In Concord he met Ralph Waldo Emerson, who took a paternal interest in Thoreau and introduced him to local writers like Hawthorne, Bronson Alcott, Ellery Channing and his future literary representative, Horace Greeley. On April 30, 1844 he and his friend, Edward Hoar, accidentally set a fire that consumed 300 acres of Walden Woods between Fair Haven Bay and Concord. After fishing they built a fire in a tree stump near the pond to make chowder. Amid brisk winds in near-drought conditions, the fire spread from the stump into dry grass. When the fire reached the trees, Henry ran through the woods ahead of the flames, encountering an owner of the blazing woods. Atop Fair Haven Hill he watched aghast as the old forest of pine, birch, alders, oaks, and maples spread through the drought-stricken woods. With Concord at risk the fire burned for a day until volunteers subdued it. In March 1845 Ellery Channing told a restless Thoreau, "Go out, build yourself a hut, & there begin the grand process of devouring yourself alive. I see no other alternative, no other hope for you." Thus, Thoreau embarked on a two-year experiment in living simply on July 4, 1845, when he moved to a modest cabin that he constructed on 14 acres of land owned by Emerson on the shores of Walden Pond. As a protégé of Emerson, Thoreau transformed into a supremely self-reliant individual, which is a core value of transcendentalism. Transcendentalists hold that an ideal spiritual state transcends, or overcomes, the physical and empirical world around us and that one achieves insight through personal intuition. Nature is the outward manifestation of one’s over-soul by expressing the "radical correspondence of visible things and human thoughts," as Emerson wrote in "Nature" in 1836. At Walden, Thoreau seeks a deep dive into the over-soul like a wood duck on a tranquil pond at dawn and he finds the engine of this crossing-over into a transcendent understanding of life by his immersive communion with nature in all of its pure manifestations. In solitude Thoreau distances himself from others, not only by a few miles of geography to the pristine purity of the water of Walden Pond, but also by a worldview intent upon surveying the botany of the Garden undistracted by the common, quotidian pursuits of his Concord neighbors. “I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude,” he writes. As he confronts his most basic need for shelter in the woods, he writes, “Before winter, I built a chimney.” He borrows an axe from a neighbor but returns it sharper than he received it. In “Higher Laws” he poses the central existential question to his Concord neighbors to which Walden is his answer: “Why do you stay here and live this moiling life, when a glorious existence is possible for you?”
Profile Image for محمدقائم خانی.
259 reviews66 followers
September 26, 2020

تارو که از ستایندگان بزرگ فرهنگ شرق و ایران بود باور داشت که با سعدی در زیر پوستی واحد زندگی می کند. او در خاطرات خویش در هشتم جولای 1852 نوشته است: «اندیشه از ورای پهناورترین شکاف های زمانی با احساسی از برادری که خطایی در آن نیست به اندیشه درود می فرستد. برای مثال من می دانم که سعدی زمانی اندیشه ای کاملا یکسان با من داشته است و بنابراین هیچ فرق مهمی نمی توانم میان خویش و سعدی بیابم.»

زمانی که هنری دیوید تارو در آن می زیست و از آن می نوشت دورانی پرشور در ادبیات آمریکا بود. دورانی که آثار بزرگی همچون موبی دیک اثر هرمان ملویل، ساقه های چمن اثر والت ویتمن و نامه اسکارلت اثر ناتائیل هاثورن را آفریده بود، آثاری که طنین آرمان های آمریکا بود و دیگر فقط بازتابی از ادبیات انگلستان نبود. حدوداً یک دهه پیش از عزیمت تارو به آبگیر والدن، گروه های آرمان پرست تأسیس می شدند، لایحه اخراج سرخپوستان، لایحه مربوط به بردگان فراری که مایه شرم تاریخ سیاسی آمریکاست هر دو تصویب شدند، ایرلندی هایی که گرفتار قحطی سیب زمینی شده بودند به نیوانگلند می آمدند، بانک ها ورشکسته می شدند، نهضت های مختلف تلاش های گوناگونی را برای اصلاحات اجتماعی آغاز می کردند و کشور به سوی جنگ داخلی پیش می رفت.

گسترش فرهنگ فارسی در اندیشه آمریکائیان آرام بود. افسانه هایی با ریشه های فارسی در کتاب هزار و یک شب یافت می شد که در این زمان محبوبیت یافته بود و دنیای رویایی متفاوتی را با حیات روزمره مردم در اواسط قرن نوزدهم عرضه می کرد. در سال 1818 گلچین ادبی خاورشناس اتریشی جوزف فن هامر پرگستال به زبان آلمانی منتشر شد. این کتاب آنچنان تأثیر عمیقی بر امرسون گذاشت که یک نسخه از آن را در سال 1846 خرید و مقاله ای درباره «ادبیات فارسی» برای ماهنامه آتلانتیک که مجله ای با تفسیرهای ادبی و فرهنگی بود نوشت و شعرهایی را برای مخاطبین آمریکایی برای اولین بار ترجمه کرد. امرسون روی ترجمه 100 شعر فارسی از زبان آلمانی کار کرد، هرچند که قسمت اعظم این کار در زمان مرگ او ناتمام ماند. کار او تأثیر اندکی بر ایجاد علاقه زیاد به ادبیات جدیدی که به خوانندگان آمریکایی معرفی می شد داشت، ولی بر نویسندگانی همچون والت ویتمن و تارو اثری عمیق گذاشت.

بخش هایی از کتاب والدن:
انسان هایی که می شناسیم بسیار اندک اند، و کت و شلوارهایی که می شناسیم بسیار فراوان. آخرین لباس خود را بر تن مترسکی کن و خود، بی لباس در کنارش بایست. کیست که بی درنگ به مترسک سلام نکند؟... می گویند سگی بود که به هر غریبه ای که با لباس به ملک اربابش نزدیک می شد پارس می کرد ولی دزدان برهنه می توانستند به آسانی او را ساکت سازند... وقتی مادام فیفر از سفرهای پرماجرای خود، از شرق تا غرب دنیا، تا مرزهای آسیایی روسیه به میهن نزدیک شد گفت احساس میک ند برای دیدن مقامات، ضروری است لباس دیگری به جز رخت سفر بپوشد زیرا «اکنون در کشوری متمدن است که در آن مردم را از روی نوع لباسشان قضاوت می کنند.»

هستند کسانی که تمام هنر خود را به کار بسته اند تا مرا به پذیرفتن پشتیبانی بعضی خانواده های فقیر در این شهر ترغیب کنند. من نیز اگر کاری برای انجام دادن نداشتم - از آنجا که شیطان برای آدم بیکار مشغله می تراشد- ممکن بود دست به سرگرمی هایی مانند این بزنم... نیکوکاری یکی از آن حرفه هایی است که اشباع شده است... من ایمان دارم که اراده ای مشابه ولی بی اندازه بزرگتر از جایی دیگر، تنها چیزی است که اکنون از عالم محافظت می کند... انسان دوستی شدیدِ (انسان اصلاح گر) به جستجوی اسکیموها و پاتاگونیایی ها می رود و روستاهای پرجمعیت هند و چین را در آغوش می کشد و به این ترتیب با چند سال فعالیت انسان دوستانه، در حالی که بی شک قدرت ها برای اهداف خود از او بهره می برند، سوءهاضمه خود را مداوا می کند... به تماشای فقیران ما مایست، بلکه بکوش تا یکی از شایستگان جهان شوی. در گلستان شیخ سعدی شیرازی خوانده ام: «حکیمی را پرسیدند چندین درخت نامور که خدای عز و جل آفریده است و برومند هیچ یک را آزاد نخوانده اند مگر سرو را که ثمره ای ندارد در این چه حکمت است؟ گفت هر درختی را ثمره معین است که به وقتی معلوم به وجود آن تازه آید و گاهی به عدم آن پژمرده شود و سرو را هیچ از این نیست و همه وقتی خوش است و این است صفت آزادگان.
برآنچه می گذرد دل منه که دجله بسی
پس از خلیفه بخواهد گذشت در بغداد
گرت ز دست برآید چو نخل باش کریم
ورت ز دست نیاید چو سرو باش آزاد.

میلیون ها انسان فقط به قدر کارهای مادی بیدارند. ولی تنها یکی از یک میلیون به اندازه به کارگیری موثر خرد و یکی از هرصدمیلیون تا مرز حیاتی شاعرانه و الهی بیدار است. بیدار بودن زنده بودن است. هنوز انسانی را ندید هام که کاملاً بیدار باشد. در چهره چنین انسانی چگونه می توانم بنگرم؟

اگر در خانه بنشینیم و صبر پیش گیریم، اصلاً کیست که راه آهن بخواهد؟ ما نیستیم که بر راه آهن می رانیم؛ راه آهن است که بر ما می راند. آیا هرگز فکر کرده اید آن تخته ها که در زیر راه آهن خوابیده اند چیست؟ هرکدام یک انسان، یک ایرلندی یا یک یانکی است. آهن ها را بر آنان می نهند و با شن می پوشانند و واگن ها راحت و روان از روی شان می گذرند.

فریب و ریا را به جای حقیقت محض محترم می شمارند در حالی که حقیقت را افسانه می پندارند. اگر آدمی همواره بر حقایق نظر می کرد و فریبی به خویش راه نمی داد، زندگی در قیاس با آن چیزها که ما می شناسیم چونان افسانه پریان و قصه های هزار و یک شب جلوه می نمود. اگر تنها آنچه را که از آن ناگزیریم و حقی برای بودن دارد محترم می شمردیم طنین موسیقی و شعر خیابان های مان را آکنده می کرد.

ما در زندگی نافرهیخته، نازل و بی سوادیم؛ از این حیث اقرار می کنم که میان بی سوادی آن همشهری ای که اصلاً خواندن نمی داند و بی سوادی آن که خواندن را تنها برای چیزهایی آموخته که مخصوص کودکان و سست عقلان است تمایز خیلی بارزی نیست. ما باید به خوبی شایستگان روزگاران کهن باشیم، ولی ابتدا باید بفهمیم آنان چقدر نیک بوده اند. ما تباری از انسان های خرده پایی هستیم که در پرواز عقلانی خویش تنها اندکی از ستون های روزنامه ها بالاتر می رویم.

میوه طعم راستین خویش را نه به خریدار خود می بخشد و نه به کسی که آن را برای ابزار پرورش می دهد. تنها یک راه برای چشیدن طعم راستین میوه هست، با وجود این، شمار اندکی از مردم این راه را دنبال می کنند. اگر می خواهی طعم زغال اخته را بشناسی از گاوچران یا از کبک بپرس. خطایی ناشایست است که فرض کنیم آن کس که زغال اخته نچیده آ نرا چشیده است.

من انسانی را محترم نمی شمارم که مناظر طبیعت را و نیز خدای خویش را اگر بتواند چیزی در ازایش بگیرد با خود به بازار می برد.

زمین تنها یک تکه از تاریخ مرده نیست که فقط زمین شناسان و عتیقه شناسان آن را لایه بر لایه مانند برگ های یک کتاب بخوانند، بلکه شعری است زنده همانند برگ های درختی که گل ها و میوه ها می دهد، نه یک زمین فسیلی، بلکه زمینی زنده که در برابر حیات بزرگ مرکز او تمامی حیات حیوانی و گیاهی، صرفاً انگلی است. او با دردی شدید پوست ریخته ما را از گور بیرون خواهد کشید.

هیچ یک از فرزندان اروپا حق شاعران و فیلسوفان پارسی و هندی را ادا نکرده اند. این شاعران برای بازرگانان دانشور اروپا آشناترند تا برای شاعران و متفکران آن... هومر و چند فرد عبری دیگر شرقی ترین نام هایی هستند که اروپای نوین که ادبیات آن از زمان سقوط پارس اوج گرفته است، در فهرست شایستگان خود راه داده است... در برابر فیلسوفان شرق، می توانیم بگوییم که اروپا هنوز فیلسوفی نزاده است.
Profile Image for Mike.
505 reviews101 followers
March 12, 2012
Walden is not for everyone. This is why it is so accurately and justifiably cherished by its admirers, and so ridiculously and criminally misunderstood by its detractors. The critics of Walden levy ad hominem after ad hominem against Thoreau, as if the utmost specifics of his experience detract from the purported "arguments" he puts forth about the absolute means everyone "must" live their lives. Clearly his meditations on cherishing solitude are false, because he did enjoy company every now and then; clearly he wasn't truly "cut loose" into the wilderness, as he had a safety net accurately called Emerson's backyard.

Walden is much simpler than that. It is not gonzo journalism; it is not stunt non-fiction. It is not proto-Krakauer hullabaloo. All it is, plain and simple, is intellectual pursuit. This does not engage some people. It's introspective, thoughtful, and focused, which generally means it goes unread and derided by people who only have a cursory knowledge of the tale passed down generation by generation of mouth-breathing hill-people in a tragic game of literary telephone.

But beyond the beautiful imagery and sophisticated metaphor and all those enchanted little things lies this notion of mindfulness; Thoreau succeeded in fulfilling this need to be surrounded by that which will keep one's mind alert. Thoreau ultimately needed an environment that broke the barriers of habit and allowed for his mind to enter a state of stimulated, unfettered wakefulness. These things tend to atrophy without ready labor or measured gratification.

Perhaps this is why I thought Walden so satisfying; it succeeds greatly as a treatise on depression. Whether or not it is Thoreau's intent is debatable, but my reading experience was enriched by how entrenched my sorrow is in habitual alienation and a constant sense of insufficient physical and mental exertion. Where is the product to which I am lending my services? How do I train myself to make a white fluorescent wall endlessly stimulating? Walden expanded several of my hypotheses with regard to depression in a positive way; it gave breadth to the soul-searching I regularly perform to monitor and assess my own sadness. The opportunities for expanding perspective and allowing for growth are multiple in Walden, and I admire a book for presenting those opportunities. One of the ways it did that was to espouse solitude, embrace simplicity, and not necessarily champion self-reliance, but find simpler yet deeper means of satisfaction in more antiquated notions of economy. Surely his devices will not work for everyone, but seeing his own efforts manifest themselves, by making something tangible and note-worthy, and lending himself over to the power of observation are all things I truly envied in him. The barriers that perhaps routine, modern gratitude, and an alarming sense of inter-dependence can place on happiness are almost too palpable now, and sadly, the means to attain Thoreau's level of immersion are almost lost. I do not think there is wilderness to speak of anymore. Perhaps depression is a means of my brain to beg me to lock into a long-term, serious, substantial issue, and solve it to the betterment of my own health and to the contentment of others; depression is certainly a means to enter a ruminative cycle of focused thought. Could that cycle be liberated if I found myself doing that serious, substantive work? Could it be liberated by finding the degree of stimulation Thoreau discovered in a nearly constant stream of unfiltered newness?

Enough about that; Thoreau is a romantic, and I don't believe so much that Walden is meant to be taken as a how-to gospel or even a polemic. It is a personal experience captured, a journey taken and a journey ultimately discovered. There is little reason for it to be taken as more than that, and, as such, it is rife with beautifully-crafted aphorisms, insights that could benefit you depending on who you are, and it is wall-to-wall equipped with very helpful and comforting insights to those of us struggling to make ways in the world as it stands now. It's a mental journey that can cure what ails you, if you're the kind of person for it, and believe me, my copy is riddled with underlines, and its margins covered with ink. This book was the perfect recommendation for myself.

(As a side note, I am only rating Walden, and am not incorporating the essay Civil Disobedience into this evaluation, which I have disregarded if only to emphasize that part of the text which I consider more essential.)
Profile Image for Greg.
1,107 reviews1,829 followers
May 1, 2017
So as part of my reading challenge for this year (mislabeled as being done in 2016, not 2017), I'm re-reading books 'everyone' loves (everyone being just a general consensus, not literally everyone) and which I hated / didn't like / was unmoved the first time I read it.

This March's book was Walden.

1. I don't know when I first read this. I think it was in Grad School 1.0, but it might have been as an Undergrad 2.0. No idea.

2. Shameful admission, I don't think I ever read the entire book the first time. Which makes me think it was part of a survey class required of everyone in my department in Grad School. My guess is I was required to read the long first chapter (which happened to be the only chapter marked up at all in my copy with notes and underlines), along with a couple of Emerson Essays and "Schopenhauer as Educator" by Nietzsche in the week on Transcendental philosophy or thought. This makes sense in a way because my previous review (which is one of my more popular ones I have ever written at a whopping two lines) made a note of him living in his backyard. This isn't mentioned in the book itself and seems like the sort of fact that the cynical professor I had for this class would have said and imprinted on my brain. But it's also the sort of thing that a snarky professor I had in undergrad might have said, and I could see this book being used in the Philosophy of Utopias and Dystopias class he taught.

3. I found that I generally agree with Thoreau on more things than I thought I would. I'm not sure why my younger self didn't like this more than he did. Oh wait, I do know why, and that is...

4. I don't like Thoreau. As a person, I imagine wanting to punch Thoreau in the face. I'm sure my college self saw him as an old timey version of the hippies / Deadheads / Phish fans he went to school with and hated hated hated. Thoreau comes across as a fairly smug self-important twit. Everytime, I would find myself agreeing with him and finding myself enjoying the book he would go off on some tangent or write something that came across as insufferable.

5. I think I liked this book more than when I first read it (or at least read the first chapter (which in fairness is the meatiest part of the book)), but I'm still placing it in the three star area. I used to hate when people said this kind of thing about books, so I feel like a dick for saying it, but it was too long. There were parts that just went on and on way too much. Since it's a 'classic' and beloved by people I have to admit that the book must resonate with people, but I still feel like it could have been more powerful in its message if it had been honed down a bit.

I should have written this while the book was fresher in my mind. I'm sorta glad I re-read it. I definitely appreciate it more than I did, but I still don't love it. It did make me want to try reading some Emerson again, and if I can figure out where in my stacks of books my copy of his complete essays is I'll probably givem them a read in the near future.
Profile Image for David.
367 reviews8 followers
July 14, 2010
Here's the thing: I like what Thoreau did here, and I agree with many of his philosophical points, and I hate giving up on books. That said, dude was pompous and long-winded. I've been trying to read this for about a month, but it has become that archetypal High School Summer Reading Book. You know, the one that you hate but is looming over you from the moment you get out of school until you finally look up the spark notes the morning of the first day that fall before the bus comes. I stopped reading it because it felt like too much of a job.

I came to the decision to give up when he had been talking about how much he paid for the materials to make his shack and listing all of the items in it for what felt like roughly 700 pages (but was actually just a cruel 10 or so). Perhaps it's just the wrong time in my life. Perhaps I'm illiterate swine. Or perhaps Thoreau's arrogance is so off-putting that he drives away people who would be very sympathetic to his work and beliefs.
Profile Image for Jessica.
391 reviews39 followers
September 11, 2007
I first read Walden in perhaps the most ideal set of circumstances possible -- for an entire semester my first year of college, in a highly popular seminar made up of 20 first year students and a brilliant professor of intellectual history. All of the students had been chosen at random from among those interested in the course, and we felt lucky to have been selected. Each class, the professor would ask us to do a close reading of the next chapter, plus re-read all the preceding chapters, and then in class we would closely examine the text to try to uncover what Thoreau was up to in his often epigrammatic way. For our many written assignments, we would be given a slip of paper with one or two sentences from the text and be asked to "explicate, in one page," which was about the best learning experience for critical writing I have ever had.

Thoreau's actual ideas were pretty interesting, and he shed light on some of the movements of his period, but I think he's most relevant now as an example of the kind of impact good, crisp, topical writing can have.
Profile Image for Ebrahim.
147 reviews59 followers
February 21, 2019
سالها قبل دقیق‌تر اگر بخواهید ده سال پیش اولین بار برخوردم به اسم والدن، زمانی که فیلمی به دستم رسید از شان پن به اسم به سوی طبیعت وحشی؛ فیلمی براساس ماجرای واقعیِ شخصی که از اجتماع بریده و به طبیعت پناه می برد. در فیلم گهگداری به این کتاب ارجاع داده می شود و از آن زمان اسم این کتاب و فلسفه‌اش با من همراه بوده به عنوان شخصی که خود علاقمند به طبیعت و انزوا و خلوت‌گزینی هستم. امیدوارم ناامیدم نکند.

مکتب فکری تعالی‌گرایی (transcendentalism):
قبل از خواندن کتاب لازم است اندکی درمورد مشرب فکری ثورو که می‌توان گفت محرک وی بوده است برای سفر به کنار دریاچه‌ی والدن، اطلاعاتی داشت. دانستن این موضوع اندکی درک انگیزه‌های ثورو را آسان‌تر می‌کند.
تعالی‌گرایی به رویکردهایی در هنر، فلسفه و مذهب می‌گویند که در اعتراض به وضعیت رایج فرهنگ و جامعه‌ی آمریکا در آغاز قرن نوزدهم شکل گرفت. به طور کلی سیر تکامل این مکتب را می‌توان اینگونه ترسیم کرد: نخست تلاش برای ایجاد یک ادبیات ملی و مستقل، دوم، سیطره‌ی رمانتیسیسم آلمانی بر ادبیات آمریکا که در آن توجه به شرق یکی از اصول اصلی بود (ترجمه آثار حافظ و خیام در همین دوره توسط گوته و فیتزجرالد شکل می گیرد) و در آخر نهضت فکری و فلسفیِ تعالی‌گرایی که عقاید دینی، فلسفی و عرفانی شرق یکی از ارکان بنیادین این تفکر التقاطی بود.
اصول آن برتری احساس و مکاشفه بر عقل، اهمیت قائل شدن به فرد در مقابل اجتماع، پشت پا زدن به هر نوع قید و بند و بی اعتقاد بودن به هرگونه الزامی در مورد سنت و درآخر یافتن لذتی بدیع و هیجان انگیز در طبیعت می‌باشد. امرسون، ثورو، هاثورن و ملویل نمایندگان تمام‌عیار رمانتیسیسم در آمریکا به شمار می آیند همچنانکه والت ویتمن که بیشتر به عنوان شاعر رئالیست شناخته شده است به دلیل فصاحت و هیجانش در واقع رمانتیک‌ترین شاعر آمریکاست.
تعالی‌گرایی فلسفه‌ای منسجم نبود، بلکه به عبارت درست‌تر عکس‌العملی بود بر ضد اصول حکمت عقلی و ماده‌گرایی رو به رشد در قرن هجدهم. این نهضت فکری تحت تأثیر فلسفه‌ی ایدئالیستی کانت، آیین نوافلاطونی و آثار عرفانی و مذهبی مشرق زمین به وجود آمد و طرفداران این نهضت یگانه راه درک حقایق را کشف شهود شخصی می‌دانند و به تجلی خداوند در ذات عالم هستی ایمان دارند. مقالات چندی در فارسی در تاثیر ادبیات کلاسیک فارسی بر این نهضت فکری نوشته شده که با ارجاع خود ثورو در والدن به قطعه‌ای از گلستان سعدی این نظر بیشتر مورد قبول واقع می‌شود.
می‌توان تعالی‌گرایی را چکیده‌ی هدف ثورو از نوشتن والدن دانست.

پس از خواندن:
در هرم مازلو نیازهای فیزیولوژیکِ غذا، گرما، خواب و استراحت جزو پایین‌ترین و بنیادی‌ترین نیازها در هرم قرار داده شده و کاری که ثورو انجام می‌دهد، سفر به خارج از تمدن و فروکاستن زندگی خود تا این حد است تا بدین وسیله درمورد معنای زندگی دقیق شود، به مرزهای انسانیت سفر می‌کند تا بدین طریق درکی بهتر از خود و جامعه داشته باشد. بدین مضمون ثورو فردی منزوی و جامعه‌گریز نبود، چنانچه برخی افراد ( مانند کریستوفر مک‌کندلس، فردی که فیلم به سوی طبیعت وحشی براساس سرگذشت وی ساخته شده است) گمان می‌کنند. ثورو در کتاب اشاره می‌کند
من منظور شرقیان را، زمانی که از مراقبه و ترک اشتغالات زندگی می‌گویند، فهمیدم
و چه بود منظور شرقیان از مراقبه؟ چیزی جز تزکیه‌ی نفس و یا آنگونه که ثورو اشاره می‌کند، شکار خود؟ این بود دلیل بوجود آمدن والدن. انسان از غار به بیرون نیامده که دوباره پس از هزاران سال به درون آن برگردد، انسان حیوانات و گیاهان را رام کرد تا دیگر بدنبال آنان در طبیعت نگردد و زمان خویش را به امور متعالی‌تر بپردازد. سوال می���تواند این باشد که آیا ما از این وقت اضافه درست استفاده می‌کنیم؟ والدن سر جنگ با دستاوردهای بشری ندارد، صرفا میگوید تا بدانجا اینها بدرد ما می‌خورند که درخدمت آرامش و تعالی انسان باشند، باقی همه ��طوط و نقوش. ثورو به گفته‌ی خود به والدن می‌رود تا عصاره‌ی حیات را بمکد، زندگی کند و خود را بیابد. اموری که هر انسان شریفی براستی بایستی به دنبال آن باشد.
چیزی که ثورو یک قرن پیش درمورد نزدیکی با مادر طبیعت و لزوم توجه به آن می‌گفت اکنون در واژه‌ی پرماکالچر نهادینه شده است، کافیست این واژه را در اینترنت جستجو کنید تا با انبوهی از کتاب‌ها و مقاله‌ها و سایت‌ها و افرادی بر بخورید که دغدغه‌ای مشابه با آن انسان شریف دارند. رویای نه چندان دور از دسترسِ هماهنگی با طبیعت و سازگاری با آن و نه بر علیه آن. آلودگی‌های فزاینده‌ی زیست‌محیطی، تغییرات اقلیمی، بیگانه شدن و قطع ارتباط انسان‌ها با طبیعت، همه بر لزوم پیگیری اندیشه‌های ثورو نه در قامت رویا که همچون ضرورتی مهم و تنها راه نجات مادر طبیعت اشاره دارند.

پسا خوانش!
ـهمانطور که اشاره کردم اندیشه‌ی پرماکالچر در اواسط کتاب به سراغم آمد و به شدت علاقه‌مند به پیگیری این مبحث شدم. درواقع از مدت‌ها قبل بدون اطلاع از وجود چنین چیزی بدنبال روش‌های مختلف و بهینه‌ی کشاورزی و سازگاری با طبیعت بودم، روش‌هایی همچون کشت آکواپونیک، ساخت کمپوست، پخت نان در خانه! اما نمی‌دانستم تمام آنها تحت عنوان واحدی به نام پرماکالچر می‌تواند جمع شود. کتاب‌های دکتر عبدالحسین وهاب‌زاده و ترجمه‌های آقای آرش حسینیان احتمالا شروع خوبی خواهند بود برای این حوزه.
ـجای خالی زن در کلبه‌ی ثورو به‌شدت احساس می‌شود و شاید دلیل اینکه ما چندان از درون کلبه نمی‌شنویم همین باشد. خانه‌ی بی‌فروغ چه دارد که بگوید. اینجا بد نیست به آخرین دیالوگ کریستوفر مک‌کندلس، آن دنباله‌روی نگون‌بخت و کج‌فهمیده‌ی ثورو اشاره کنیم که به راستی جان کلام اسم:
happiness only real when shared
خوشبختی زمانی واقعیست که با فردی به اشتراک گذاشته شود

ـ‌یکی از آرزوهای همیشه‌ام آشنایی با نام تمامی گیاهان و موجودات پیرامون‌ام بوده و از هر فرصتی برای این آشنایی استفاده کرده‌ام و مراودات ثورو با موجودات و گیاهان و درختان اطراف کلبه‌اش دوباره آن آتش را در دل‌ام شعله‌ور کرد. آیا روزی می‌رسد که بگویم سلام افرا، سلام بلوط، چه خبر بابونه‌ی گاوی؟! :)
ـاصلا اهل خواندن کتاب‌های رمانتیست‌ها نیستم و این همه رنگ احساسی بر همه چیز زدن و به قول رادیو چهرازی "دریا خندید در دور دست دندان هایش کف و لب هایش آسمان" داشتن‌های زیاد در قسمت‌هایی جانم را درمی‌آورد، مخصوصا پس از خواندن کتاب نفرین‌شده‌ی خاستگاه آگاهی در فروپاشی ذهن دوجایگاهی! که تمامی آن دیالوگ‌ها را واگویه‌هایی بیمارگونه می‌نمایاند. بایستی به ترتیب خواندن کتاب‌ها بیشتر دقت کنم!
ـمترجم محترم جناب آقای سید علیرضا بهشتی شیرازی در مقدمه‌ی خود می‌فرماید که به نظر ایشان
بهترین ترجمه نه ساده‌ترین، نه گویاترین، نه دقیق‌ترین که شفاف‌ترین‌هاست، بدان معنی که مترجم از میانه برخیزد و خواننده احساس کند اگر بنا بود نویسنده‌ی اصلی اثر را به زبان مادری او می‌نوشت چنین چیزی پیش رویش قرار می‌گرفت... اینها را می‌گویم تا برای وجود تعدادی کلمه قدیمی در ترجمه‌ام عذر بیاورم. ثورو خود، حتی در مقایسه با زمانه‌ی نسبتاً کهنش، لغوی و کهنه می‌نوشت و این نه از سر فضل‌فروشی، که عملی عامدانه و به منظور بود. او اعتقاد داشت آثار تامل‌برانگیز باید سرعت شکن‌هایی از این نوع داشته باشند تا خواننده به راستی بر رویشان تامل کند.
آقای بهشتی الحق و الانصاف که حقیقتا خوب سرعت‌شکن‌هایی گذاشته‌اید، تا جایی که گاهی مجبور می‌شدم کتاب را بسته و در لغت‌نامه و اینترنت دربدر به دنبال معنای کلمه‌ای به مانند مسامه در جمله‌ی "و از هر مسامه‌ای وجد می‌نوشد" بگردم و در آخر با نتیجه نرسیدن این سرعت‌شکن را دور بزنم!
درمجموع از ترجمه راضی هستم و نقل‌قولی از خود کتاب را درخور حال ایشان می‌دانم:
در سایه‌ی دولتی که هرکسی را ناعادلانه به زندان می‌اندازد، جایگاه راستین انسان عادل زندان است.
و چه جایی بهتر از زندان برای ترجمه‌ی چنین کتابی، حقا که از "غنیمت عمر خویش" خوب بهره‌ای برده‌اید. کیفیت چاپ و نوع خاص جلد آن برازنده‌ی چنین کتابی‌ست واقعا و فقط ای کاش اندکی در استفاده از کسره‌ی اضافه و ویرگول دست و دل بازتر بودید تا گاهی فهم متن را مشکل‌تر از آنچه هست نکند. باشد که رستگار شویم.
پس از خواندن این کتاب تماشای مستند سه‌گانه‌ی کواتسی که به نام زندگی بدون توازن هم شناخته می‌شود، اثر مستندساز شهیر گادفری رجیو را توصیه می‌کنم، فقط کافیست تا تریلر یکی از آنها را ببینید تا متوجه بشوید آن چیزی که ثورو آن زمان بدان هشدار می‌داد اکنون به صورت فاجعه‌آمیز‌تری رخ داده است.
Profile Image for KC.
2,391 reviews
August 20, 2017
I listened to the audiobook of this and unfortunately the narrator made it somewhat unbearable to listen to, but I did complete both Walden and the essay On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. I found Walden to be a pleasant telling of Thoreau's departure from society and living freely in the woods of MA. I enjoyed his philosophies with one in particular; where one can live easier, less stressed and freer when one has less to procure or work for. Civil Disobedience was a bit more fascinating and quite relevant due to our current political climate. I am happy to have completed this classic. I am looking forward to a great dialog with my middle son-the transcendentalist.
Profile Image for Milo.
40 reviews116 followers
April 26, 2011
I actually got to visit Thoreau's cabin for my brother's birthday this April. Despite it being below freezing the mosquito's had already started to breed. When we approached the pond we were engulfed in a cloud of them. I could almost hear them singing with delight as they began to feast. Almost...
perhaps intermittently between screams. (As a side note I would like to say that I am terrified of bugs. Especially the flying ones that like to bite) In denial of the adject horror I was experiencing due to these troublesome creatures I trudged onward; looking upon the house where one of my personal heroes had lived had always been a dream of mine. Thoreau had build the cabin himself. It was a small, isolated alcove in the woods where Thoreau could be alone to write. When we arrived I couldn't believe how small it was. It was like a modern day closet with barely enough room for more than five people. His statue was just outside the front door. He was a small guy. I'd wager a little over five feet tall. He looked even smaller next to all of my relatives who all break six feet. As I peered into the Thoreau's brass face I began to remember why I love this guy.

"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."

There was a billboard with this quote next to the spot where the real cabin - which has fallen apart long ago - had stood.

After reading about how Thoreau was arrested for refusing to pay six years of missed tax payments I began to appreciate Thoreau for what he really was. A true American and a very humane person. He wasn't afraid to stand up and fight for what he believed in; nor was he frightened to suffer for it. He was no fool to be trodden over by men who supposed they had the right. His essay Civil Disobedience was instrumental to almost all subsequent social reforms. He inspired monumental figures like Mohandas Gandhi and MLK Jr. and his work did more to preserve the spirit of freedom in America than any other. I would be hard pressed to recommend a more prolific American philosopher.
Profile Image for David.
63 reviews
July 2, 2017
Man this book was tedious as hell. There were a handful of cute thoughts and clever poeticals strewn throughout this sucker but mostly it's just some obnoxious dude going "Yo have you ever looked at a bird?" for a coupla hundred pages. It's like hanging out with someone who's on mushrooms when you're not.

"Snipes and wood-cocks may afford rare sport, but I suspect it may be nobler game to shoot oneself."

Yeah okay, you first dude.
Profile Image for Stefanie.
1,656 reviews58 followers
May 7, 2020
Every so often a book comes along and makes you realize that if you meet someone who likes this book, they are instantly on the friendship blacklist because the ideas presented are so terrible/ludicrous/detestable that anyone who supports them must also be at least in part terrible/ludicrous/detestable. This is one of those books. (It joins Red Rising by Pierce Brown and anything by Ayn Rand on my personal blacklist.)

It is honestly almost laughable how immature Thoreau is. It reads like an eight year old boy who is mad at his parents and writes a letter in crayon detailing why he is setting out on his own because he doesn't need parents.

He spends most of the book telling you why his way is the only "good" way to live, going so far as to detail what he spent on every aspect of his woodland existence. He flatly rejects any notion of caring for others or existing for any reason other than to sit in quiet contemplation. I can almost see how this would have been a potential view point for moderately well-off white men in New England at his time, but he doesn't even allow for the existence of families, women, or people of color in his perfect-world scenario.

Each chapter deals with a new aspect of his life in the woods that he is inordinately proud of. None of them are very interesting. I read this because it's a classic and because I wanted to be well-versed in the type of self-centered lunatic to avoid. For me, this is another "classic" that did not age well and it is probably time to let it die. (See also, Gulliver's Travels.)

The civil disobedience essay can be entirely refuted by a line from Men in Black: "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals."
Profile Image for Emanuela.
620 reviews29 followers
July 21, 2021
Onestamente non avrei mai incluso questo libro tra le mie letture questo mese se non mi fosse servito per un esame ma, dopo ore di studio di normative, la sera la lettura degli sproloqui di Thoreau non mi ha entusiasmata per niente, nonostante comunque devo dire che la scrittura non sia delle più piacevoli ma nemmeno particolarmente ostica come mi sarei aspettata da un filosofo.
Certo è che, come mio primo approccio ai filosofi americani, non è stato dei migliori, e non sono certo invogliata a conoscerne altri.
In particolar modo, non ho ben chiaro, una volta chiuso questo libro, dove sia andato a parare l’autore. Cioè che una vita a maggior contatto con la natura sarebbe auspicabile per tutti, che sarebbero da ridurre i danni del liberismo e del consumismo, sono ormai cose note a tutti, ma pensando ai tempi in cui lui ha vissuto sul lago Walden nei boschi ed ha enunciato queste teorie, notiamo indubbiamente quanto sia stato precursore.
Però dalle sue descrizioni non mi risulta chiaro come le sue esperienze dovrebbero spingere le persone a far ciò, dato che in molti passaggi sembrano piuttosto riflessioni di un misantropo e non di una persona che motivi razionalmente le proprie scelte.
Unicamente le descrizioni del posto, delle foreste, del lago e degli animali mi sono rimaste impresse ricordandomi quei territori del Canada che tanto vorrei visitare.
Profile Image for Jessica.
246 reviews
March 7, 2009
I really had no clue what to expect when I picked this book up. I had never read it, and was only introduced to Thoreau through a grad course reading requirement of his. I fell in love then and this book continued that love. While many of his ideas are now cliche, to think that he was speaking them at a time when it was unheard of is incredible to me. There were many "ah ha" moments, when I realized things about everyday life that had not been clear to me before. Ideas about living simply and therefore more happily. That owning things can sometimes weigh you down much more than being "poor". He was an enlightened being who recognized the power of human will and thought. I think most people had to read this in high school which I don't agree with. At that stage in life I dont believe many are ready for all the ideas presented. I read it at the perfect time in my life and can't wait to read more of his works.
Profile Image for Lorena.
85 reviews
April 13, 2020
This was the best choice to read during my quarantine. It transported me towards an almost isolated place, yet, in the nature, which by now I miss it so much. I enjoyed the detailed description of the author's life out of town, noise and civilization, nearby a pond, making the best out of the surroundings. Personally I am pro self sustainability, I think it requires very high moral background in order to adapt to this lifestyle, even though it seems too far fetched. However, it is all fun and games, until this lifestyle turns to a movement, and then to a utopia.
Why is it morally right to farm, but morally wrong to raise cattle and feed on them?
Self-sustainability, just like Marxism, are ideally good only on paper, not in real life. I was looking for a resolution in the end of the book merely on this issue, but since the author left the pond eventually I assume that that way of living didn't work.
Profile Image for Patrick Peterson.
455 reviews184 followers
October 12, 2020
2019 - I read these in High School and have been glad I did ever since.
I didn't and still don't agree with all of Thoreau's ideas, but the core importance of freedom and living one's own life in harmony with nature and mankind is core.

Some of Walden was really hard to read. I remember one sentence in particular that went on for a whole long paragraph. But the struggle was worth it.

2020-10-12 - Was just reminded of a very neat little (easy to read) book "Chasing Thoreau" by James Payne. See my review of that if some kayaking adventures in honor of and near Thoreau's home might be of interest. It sure was for me and I was richly rewarded.
Profile Image for Tempo de Ler.
728 reviews95 followers
May 28, 2016

Escritos no século XIX, tanto Walden (Walden ou a Vida nos Bosques) como Civil Disobedience (A Desobediência Civil) continuam a fazer todo o sentido à luz dos conhecimentos e experiência que adquirimos ao longo de mais de século e meio de tempo decorrido.

Ao partilhar connosco a sua experiência nos bosques de Walden, onde viveu dois anos isolado, Thoreau pretende mostrar-nos uma via alternativa; uma outra forma de viver, mais conscienciosa e em harmonia tanto connosco como com a Natureza. Quebrando a normalidade, contrariando o rumo dos hábitos sociais e apontando os inimigos da vida moral (governo e industrialismo), Thoreau deixa-nos, no mínimo, a pensar na forma como conduzimos as nossas vidas.

Ao longo da narrativa, o escritor aborda os vários elementos que constituem ou contribuem largamente para a nossa existência, focando o que é essencial e condenando num tom veemente o que não o é, o que devemos procurar activamente e do que nos devemos afastar. Assim, o livro adquire um tom crítico e moralista enquanto Thoreau foca temas como o materialismo, a ânsia pelo luxo, o consumismo, o vestuário, a alimentação, a convivência social, a relação com a Natureza, a importância de uma consciência ecológica, a necessidade de sucesso pessoal, a filantropia e a literatura, salientando como as nossas prioridades estão trocadas.

Gostei muito deste livro, mas não posso dizer que me tenha agradado de forma homogénea. Apesar da beleza da prosa e das interessantes associações históricas e mitológicas, houve capítulos em Walden nos quais Thoreau se torna mais descritivo do seu quotidiano e da sua observação da fauna e flora locais... e em que eu, infelizmente, acabei por me distrair um bocadinho.

Em Walden, Thoreau incita-nos a simplificar a vida e à auto-descoberta, enquanto que em Civil Disobedience assume um tom mais agressivo para partilhar as suas preocupações políticas, os seus argumentos contra o governo (e respectiva forma de actuar) e o seu pensamento anti-capitalista. Apontando as injustiças sociais da sua altura (a ilegalidade da guerra contra o México, a campanha militar americana, a escravatura, ...), Thoreau questiona a democracia na configuração em que esta se lhe apresentava, preocupando-se com a verdade, a liberdade e a igualdade.

Não posso dizer que concordo a 100% com Thoreau, principalmente quando lhe denoto alguma hipocrisia ou inocência. Concordo, sim, que precisamos de encontrar uma maneira diferente de ocupar este nosso Mundo e gostei imenso da eloquência e da forma inspiradora como Thoreau nos fala, dando-nos muito em que pensar e muito que discutir. Desagradavelmente sentencioso, Thoreau investe contra a música, a educação, a sabedoria dos mais velhos, o sal e até o café... não deixando de fazer também comentários à família e aos amigos.  Não gostei do exagero e puritanismo com que se nos apresenta sobre alguns tópicos, adquirindo um tom arrogante, antipatizando com tudo e todos, proscrevendo radicalmente os mais diversos apetites humanos. Há, no entanto, muita sabedoria em Walden e em Civil Disobedience e penso que é nisso que nos devemos focar nesta leitura.

Profile Image for dv.
1,188 reviews43 followers
August 30, 2017
«Avevo tre sedie, in casa mia: una per la solitudine, due per l’amicizia, tre per la compagnia». Un classico finalmente letto. Seguire Thoreau sul lago di Walden offre l’opportunità di confrontarsi con un’inattuale attitudine ai temi dell’economia e della sussistenza di base, del rapporto con la natura, della dimensione individuale e sociale del nostro vivere. Non solo una critica della società dell’epoca; soprattutto, un viaggio di auto-conoscenza.
Profile Image for andreea. .
536 reviews525 followers
November 1, 2020
Walden: dude goes to live in a park & the rest is just a long series of rants on beans, mackerels, oak planks, plastering, vegetarianism and being by far any city-dweller's superior.

Civil Disobedience: the government tolerates slavery and that's so so bad, but these fuckers make me pay taxes and that's where I draw the line !!
Profile Image for Mostafa.
167 reviews12 followers
June 5, 2019
یک ستاره‌ای که به این کتاب دادم در اصل به ترجمه افتضاح آن دادم نه خودِ کتاب.
اصلا مفهوم منتقل نمی‌شد و خواننده کتاب را کلافه می‌کرد. کاش مترجم بهتری این کتاب را ترجمه روان کند.
در آخر اعلام می‌کنم عزادار ۴۴ هزار تومنی هستم که برای این کتاب پرداخت کردم.
Profile Image for Gavin Richardson .
69 reviews4 followers
December 3, 2020
I was curious about the book as it is one of those original sources of writing that is known to spur on a nature movement. Being a period piece the writing is somewhat tough to slug though. That is expected. I enjoyed ‘Walden’ but I think I enjoyed ‘On Civil Disobedience’ more. For reasons obvious it tracks interestingly well with today’s justice movements, governance, and political cultures. That is a worthwhile short read. Walden is an interesting foray into the wilderness and the random acts of people and nature. At times he writes of nature in poetic frames (like a Mary Oliver) and other times strictly literal descriptive. How the writings spurred on a quest for discovering nature in the mid 1800’s is strange to see from this distance in history. I will leave that to its period of time. It is a cool insight into intimately knowing a place through the seasons. Should all persons develop some understanding of the land in similar fashion I suspect we would be forever the benefactors.
Profile Image for Beth Cato.
Author 108 books488 followers
September 14, 2022
I had never before read Walden & Civil Disobedience in their entirety. Walden is something of a slog and slow to get going, but I enjoyed the rapturous way he writes about nature. It's easy to see why this is a classic for those passages alone. Civil Disobedience is more engaging than the social commentary within Walden, and quite fascinating in light of how it continues to influence activism today. I'm glad I read these works but I won't ever willingly read through them again.
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