Henry David Thoreau

Another of the oft-quoted mid-19th century New Englanders, Thoreau was a champion of truth
and life, a man who lived by principle and who cared enough about the quality of his own life
to spend it living counter to the "norms."  From his book-length examination of his time spent living
on Walden Pond to his shorter works such as "Life without Principle," Thoreau cared enough
to examine those things that helped him to lead a quality life, and his appreciation
for all that he had always shines through.

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This life is not for complaint, but for satisfaction.


Whate'er we leave to God, God does and blesses us.
To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live, according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust.

If one walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, one is in danger of being regarded as a loafer; but if one spends the whole day as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making earth bald before her time, one is esteemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.  As if a town had no interest in its forests but to cut them down!
I too had woven a kind of basket of a delicate texture, but I had not made it worth anyone's while to buy them.  Yet not the less, in my case, did I think it worth my while to weave them, and instead of studying how to make it worth men's while to buy my baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of selling them.

If we respected only what is inevitable and has a right to be, music and poetry would resound along the streets.  When we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence, that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of the reality.  This is always exhilarating and sublime.  By closing the eyes and slumbering, and consenting to be deceived by shows, men establish and confirm their daily life of routine and habit everywhere, which still is built on purely illusory foundations.  Children, who play life, discern its true law and relations more clearly than men, who fail to live it worthily, but who think they are wiser by experience, that is, by failure.

Only they are successful in their business who make that pursuit which affords them the highest pleasure sustain them.


Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.



Good for the body is the work of the body,
good for the soul is the work of the soul,
and good for either is the work of the other.

It is only by forgetting yourself that you draw near to God.

Our life is frittered away by detail. . . . I say, let your affairs be as two or three,
and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and
keep your accounts on your thumbnail. . . . Simplify, simplify.  Instead of three
meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five;
and reduce other things in proportion.
   Let us spend every day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the
track by every nutshell and mosquito's wing that falls on the rails.


It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue,
and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve
and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look.
To affect the quality of the day--that is the highest of arts.

I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature,
which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.

How vain it is to sit down to write if you have not stood up to live.

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost;
that is where they should be.  Now put foundations under them.

The most I can do for my friends is simply to be their friend.
I have no wealth to bestow on them.  If they know that
I am happy in loving them, they will want no other reward.
Is not friendship divine in this?

I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable
ability of people to elevate their lives by a conscious endeavor.

If you would convince people that they do wrong, do right.
People will believe what they see.


Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed
and in such desperate enterprises?  If we do not keep pace
with our companions, perhaps it is because we hear
a different drummer.  Let us step to the music which we hear,
however measured or far off.  It is not important that we should mature
as soon as an apple tree or an oak.  Shall we turn our spring into summer?

If people advance confidently in the direction of their dreams,
and endeavor to live the life which they have imagined,
they will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

Misfortunes occur only when a person is false. . . .
Events, circumstances, etc., have their origins in ourselves.
They spring from seeds which we have sown.



The ways by which you get money almost without exception lead downward.
To have done anything by which you earned money merely is to have been truly
idle or worse.  If the laborers get no more than the wages which their employer
pays them, they are cheated, they cheat themselves.  If you would get money
as a writer or lecturer, you must be popular, which is to go down perpendicularly.

Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life,
are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation
of mankind. With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have
even lived a more simple and meagre life than the poor.

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.


It is never too late
to give up your prejudices.

Rather than love, than money,
than fame, give me truth.

So behave that the odor of your actions may enhance the general sweetness
of the atmosphere, that when we behold or scent a flower, we may not be
reminded how inconsistent your deeds are with it; for all odor is but one form
of advertisement of a moral quality, and if fair actions had not been performed,
the lily would not smell sweet. The foul slime stands for the sloth and vice
of humans, the decay of humanity; the fragrant flower that springs from it,
for the purity and courage which are immortal.

We do not enjoy poetry unless we know it to be poetry.

Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.

It is not worthwhile to go around the world to count the cats in Zanzibar.


Men talk about Bible miracles because there is no miracle in their lives.
Cease to gnaw that crust. There is ripe fruit over your head.


I had three pieces of limestone on my desk,
but I was terrified to find that they required to be dusted daily,
when the furniture of my mind was all undusted still,
and threw them out the window in disgust.

My Aunt Maria asked me to read the life of Dr. Chalmers,
which, however, I did not promise to do.
Yesterday, Sunday, she was heard through the partition
shouting to my Aunt Jane, who is deaf, "Think of it!
He stood half an hour today to hear the frogs croak,
and he wouldn't read the life of Chalmers."

Let us first be as simple and well as Nature ourselves,
dispel the clouds which hang over our brows,
and take up a little life into our pores.
Do not stay to be an overseer of the poor,
but endeavor to become one of the worthies of the world.


In the streets and in society I am almost invariably
cheap and dissipated, my life is unspeakably mean.
No amount of gold or respectability would in the least
redeem it,-- dining with the Governor or a member of Congress!!
But alone in the distant woods or fields,
in unpretending sprout-lands or pastures tracked by rabbits,
even in a bleak and, to most, cheerless day, like this,
when a villager would be thinking of his or her inn,
I come to myself, I once more feel myself grandly related,
and that cold and solitude are friends of mine.
I suppose that this value, in my case, is equivalent
to what others get by churchgoing and prayer.
I come home to my solitary woodland walk as the homesick go home.
I thus dispose of the superfluous and see things as they are,
grand and beautiful. I have told many that I walk every day
about half the daylight, but I think they do not believe it.
I wish to get the Concord, the Massachusetts, the America,
out of my head and be sane a part of every day.

A person is rich in proportion to the number of things
which he or she can afford to let alone.

I have always been regretting that I was not
as wise as the day I was born.


Efficient and valuable people do what they can,
whether the community pay them for it or not.
The inefficient offer their inefficiency to the highest bidder,
and are forever expecting to be put in office.

To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts,
nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live
according to its dictates, a life of simplicity,
independence, magnanimity, and trust.

Perfect sincerity and transparency make a great part of beauty,
as in dewdrops, lakes, and diamonds.

A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature.
It is Earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures
the depth of his own nature.


Say what you have to say, not what you ought.
Any truth is better than make-believe.


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