I'm fairly partial to books that deal with going green and trying to live a more eco-friendly life and the one I have been reading lately (My Green Manifesto by David Gessner) mentioned Thoreau a lot. Now I am fairly sure that I had to read "Civil Disobedience" for at least one class in high school but all I could remember was that he had a pretty fine time when he was in jail for not paying taxes. Clearly time to revisit.
Walden chronicles Thoreau's time spent living out in the woods at Walden Pond, in a very simple house with very little modern comforts. Thoreau strives to be self-reliant and grows his own food and builds his own chimney. He details his spending and income, the reactions from town members to his behavior, and the ever changing and beautiful nature he is immersed in.
"We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us, like the grass which confesses the influence of the slightest dew that falls on it; and not spend our time in atoning fro the neglect of past opportunities, which we call doing our duty. We loiter in the winter while it is already spring."
I had a strange time with this book. I enjoyed a lot of it, but at times my mind tended to wander and it felt more like I was reading it because I had to. The parts that I enjoyed though, I really enjoyed. I often had to pause and think about how Thoreau would hate, hate today's America and wonder how he would feel about certain men running for president..
"Most think that they are above being supported by the town, but it oftener happens that they are not above supporting themselves by dishonest means, which should be more disreputable."
"Civil Disobiedence" was much easier for me to clip through. I love Thoreau's activism and his determination not to be part of the Mexican War or part of slavery by withholding his taxes. I wish I had a voice like his to read about today's politics.
"Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn."
This really spoke to me. I try to live my life by certain principals that often get teased or questioned by certain family members of mine. For example, I think factory farming is gross and harmful to both the people who work there and the animals that are mistreated and so I pay more to get my meat from local farmers who are scratching out a living practicing real animal husbandry. I'm currently trying to get my workplace to take me seriously about getting the maintenance staff to stop putting blank pieces of paper at the bottom of every cubicle garbage can at work after they empty them and promote recycling more. Every day I am trying more and more to walk the walk and while I cannot change the world, or my family, or my workplace, in one day, that is no excuse to stop trying or just stop caring.
If you don't have time for the whole book, at least give "Civil Disobedience" a read. I think this work is important, and deserves serious consideration.