May 16, 2013
me+ME: Quotations from "Walden" - 1
1. From Chapter 1 of Thoreau's "Walden"
2. Where the rest is
About ME/CFS


Well... I am still paying back my walk of three weeks ago, so I am still not feeling very well. (But it may be improving some.)

Above you see an image of Walden Pond, in 2010, and today my subject is Thoreau's Walden. I bought the book on July 12, 1974, in the paper back edition of Thomas Y. Crowell Company, who calls it Apollo Edition, of 1966.

I think I read all of it in July 1974, and also underlined it. This is why I buy my books, though I know it is a habit not many people have, and certainly not as seriously as I have it. But the habit has its uses, and one of them is that it is easy to find quotes.

What follows below are the quotes I underlined in Chapter 1. The numbers are the page numbers in the book I mentioned, though the quotes are copied from the 2013 Gutenberg edition of the book.

I do not think I missed many quotations, but of course you can read it all yourself. In any case, here are the things I underlined in Chapter 1, called "Economy". As to Where the rest is, follow the link.

1. From Chapter 1 of Thoreau's "Walden"

1. I am a sojourner in civilized life

2. 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.

3. (..) everywhere, in shops, and offices, and fields, the inhabitants have appeared to me to be doing penance in a thousand remarkable ways.

4a. But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon plowed into the soil for compost.

4b. It is a fool's life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before (..)

5a. Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them.

5b. Actually, the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity day by day; he cannot afford to sustain the manliest relations to men; his labor would be depreciated in the market. He has no time to be anything but a machine. How can he remember well his ignorance—which his growth requires—who has so often to use his knowledge?

6a. It is very evident what mean and sneaking lives many of you live, for my sight has been whetted by experience (..)

6b. (..) seeking to curry favor, to get custom, by how many modes, only not state-prison offenses; lying, flattering, voting, contracting yourselves into a nutshell of civility or dilating into an atmosphere of thin and vaporous generosity (..)

7a. What is his destiny to him compared with the shipping interests?

7b, See how he cowers and sneaks, how vaguely all the day he fears, not being immortal nor divine, but the slave and prisoner of his own opinion of himself, a fame won by his own deeds. 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.

8a.The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.

8b. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work.

8c. When we consider what, to use the words of the catechism, is the chief end of man, and what are the true necessaries and means of life, it appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode of living because they preferred it to any other. Yet they honestly think there is no choice left.

8d. It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof.

9a. Age is no better, hardly so well, qualified for an instructor as youth, for it has not profited so much as it has lost.

9b. 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.

9c. Here is life, an experiment to a great extent untried by me; but it does not avail me that they have tried it.

10.  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.

11. 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.

12a. 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.

12b. Confucius said, "To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge."

13. For the improvements of ages have had but little influence on the essential laws of man's existence; as our skeletons, probably, are not to be distinguished from those of our ancestors.
   By the words, necessary of life, I mean whatever, of all that man obtains by his own exertions, has been from the first, or from long use has become, so important to human life that few, if any, whether from savageness, or poverty, or philosophy, ever attempt to do without it. To many creatures there is in this sense but one necessary of life, Food. To the bison of the prairie it is a few inches of palatable grass, with water to drink; unless he seeks the Shelter of the forest or the mountain's shadow. None of the brute creation requires more than Food and Shelter. The necessaries of life for man in this climate may, accurately enough, be distributed under the several heads of Food, Shelter, Clothing, and Fuel; for not till we have secured these are we prepared to entertain the true problems of life with freedom and a prospect of success.

15.  The grand necessity, then, for our bodies, is to keep warm, to keep the vital heat in us.

16. At the present day, and in this country, as I find by my own experience, a few implements, a knife, an axe, a spade, a wheelbarrow, etc., and for the studious, lamplight, stationery, and access to a few books, rank next to necessaries, and can all be obtained at a trifling cost.

16b. The ancient philosophers, Chinese, Hindoo, Persian, and Greek, were a class than which none has been poorer in outward riches, none so rich in inward.

17a. There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers.

17b.  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. It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically. The success of great scholars and thinkers is commonly a courtier-like success, not kingly, not manly.

17c. How can a man be a philosopher and not maintain his vital heat by better methods than other men?

19. 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 future, which is precisely the present moment; to toe that line.

23. My purpose in going to Walden Pond was not to live cheaply nor to live dearly there, but to transact some private business with the fewest obstacles; (..)

24. I have always endeavored to acquire strict business habits; they are indispensable to every man.

26.  (..) I am sure that there is greater anxiety, commonly, to have fashionable, or at least clean and unpatched clothes, than to have a sound conscience.

27a. (..) he considers, not what is truly respectable, but what is respected.

27b.  It is an interesting question how far men would retain their relative rank if they were divested of their clothes.

28.  (..) for she "was now in a civilized country, where... people are judged of by their clothes."

29a. I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.

29b. All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, or rather something to be.

31a.  When I hear this oracular sentence, I am for a moment absorbed in thought, emphasizing to myself each word separately that I may come at the meaning of it, that I may find out by what degree of consanguinity They are related to me, and what authority they may have in an affair which affects me so nearly;  (..)

31b.  We worship not the Graces, nor the Parcae, but Fashion.

31c.  I sometimes despair of getting anything quite simple and honest done in this world by the help of men.

32a. Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.

32b. All costume off a man is pitiful or grotesque.

33. In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.

35. At last, we know not what it is to live in the open air, and our lives are domestic in more senses than we think.

36.  Economy is a subject which admits of being treated with levity, but it cannot so be disposed of.

38a. (..) in modern civilized society not more than one half the families own a shelter. In the large towns and cities, where civilization especially prevails, the number of those who own a shelter is a very small fraction of the whole.

38b. I do not mean to insist here on the disadvantage of hiring compared with owning, but it is evident that the savage owns his shelter because it costs so little, while the civilized man hires his commonly because he cannot afford to own it; nor can he, in the long run, any better afford to hire.

39a. If it is asserted that civilization is a real advance in the condition of man—and I think that it is, though only the wise improve their advantages—it must be shown that it has produced better dwellings without making them more costly; and the cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.

39b. Nevertheless this points to an important distinction between the civilized man and the savage; and, no doubt, they have designs on us for our benefit, in making the life of a civilized people an institution, in which the life of the individual is to a great extent absorbed, in order to preserve and perfect that of the race.

42. (..)  to solve the problem of a livelihood by a formula more complicated than the problem itself.

43a. The luxury of one class is counterbalanced by the indigence of another.
43b. It is a mistake to suppose that, in a country where the usual evidences of civilization exist, the condition of a very large body of the inhabitants may not be as degraded as that of savages.

44.  Their condition only proves what squalidness may consist with civilization.

45a. Most men appear never to have considered what a house is, and are actually though needlessly poor all their lives because they think that they must have such a one as their neighbors have.

45b. Shall we always study to obtain more of these things, and not sometimes to be content with less?

45c. Why should not our furniture be as simple as the Arab's or the Indian's?

46. It is the luxurious and dissipated who set the fashions which the herd so diligently follow.

47a. But lo! men have become the tools of their tools.

47b. We have adopted Christianity merely as an improved method of agri-culture. We have built for this world a family mansion, and for the next a family tomb.

48. The first question which I am tempted to put to the proprietor of such great impropriety is, Who bolsters you? Are you one of the ninety-seven who fail, or the three who succeed?

50.  (..) as if their principle were to satisfy the more pressing wants first. But are the more pressing wants satisfied now?

51. (..) the country is not yet adapted to human culture, and we are still forced to cut our spiritual bread far thinner than our forefathers did their wheaten.

54.  (..) I made no haste in my work, but rather made the most of it (..)

59a. I never in all my walks came across a man engaged in so simple and natural an occupation as building his house.

59b. Where is this division of labor to end? and what object does it finally serve? No doubt another may also think for me; but it is not therefore desirable that he should do so to the exclusion of my thinking for myself.

60. What of architectural beauty I now see, I know has gradually grown from within outward, out of the necessities and character of the indweller, who is the only builder—out of some unconscious truthfulness, and nobleness, without ever a thought for the appearance and whatever additional beauty of this kind is destined to be produced will be preceded by a like unconscious beauty of life.

63. If I seem to boast more than is becoming, my excuse is that I brag for humanity rather than for myself; and my shortcomings and inconsistencies do not affect the truth of my statement.

64a. Tuition, for instance, is an important item in the term bill, while for the far more valuable education which he gets by associating with the most cultivated of his contemporaries no charge is made.

64b. (..) and then, following blindly the principles of a division of labor to its extreme—a principle which should never be followed but with circumspection (..)

65a. (..) I mean that they should not play life, or study it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end.

65b. If I wished a boy to know something about the arts and sciences, for instance, I would not pursue the common course, which is merely to send him into the neighborhood of some professor, where anything is professed and practised but the art of life;—to survey the world through a telescope or a microscope, and never with his natural eye; to study chemistry, and not learn how his bread is made, or mechanics, and not learn how it is earned; to discover new satellites to Neptune, and not detect the motes in his eyes, or to what vagabond he is a satellite himself; or to be devoured by the monsters that swarm all around him, while contemplating the monsters in a drop of vinegar.

66. Even the poor student studies and is taught only political economy, while that economy of living which is synonymous with philosophy is not even sincerely professed in our colleges.

67a. They are but improved means to an unimproved end (..)

67b. As if the main object were to talk fast and not to talk sensibly.

69. This spending of the best part of one's life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it (..)

71a. All things considered, that is, considering the importance of a man's soul and of today (..)

71b. (..) if one would live simply and eat only the crop which he raised, and raise no more than he ate, and not exchange it for an insufficient quantity of more luxurious and expensive things, he would need to cultivate only a few rods of ground (..)

72a. I was more independent than any farmer in Concord, for I was not anchored to a house or farm, but could follow the bent of my genius, which is a very crooked one, every moment.

72b. (..)  men are not so much the keepers of herds as herds are the keepers of men (..)

74. As for the Pyramids, there is nothing to wonder at in them so much as the fact that so many men could be found degraded enough to spend their lives constructing a tomb for some ambitious booby (..)

76a. The expense of food for eight months (..) not counting potatoes, a little green corn, and some peas, which I had raised (..) was (..) $8.74, all told (..)

78.  Nothing was given me of which I have not rendered some account. It appears from the above estimate, that my food alone cost me in money about twenty-seven cents a week. It was, for nearly two years after this, rye and Indian meal without yeast, potatoes, rice, a very little salt pork, molasses, and salt; and my drink, water.

79. Yet men have come to such a pass that they frequently starve, not for want of necessaries, but for want of luxuries (..)

81a.  Man is an animal who more than any other can adapt himself to all climates and circumstances.

81b. I made it according to the recipe which Marcus Porcius Cato gave about two centuries before Christ. (..) "Make kneaded bread thus. Wash your hands and trough well. Put the meal into the trough, add water gradually, and knead it thoroughly. When you have kneaded it well, mould it, and bake it under a cover," that is, in a baking kettle. Not a word about leaven.

82. For the most part the farmer gives to his cattle and hogs the grain of his own producing, and buys flour, which is at least no more wholesome, at a greater cost, at the store.

83a. The pantaloons which I now wear were woven in a farmer's family (..)

83b. (..) I think the fall from the farmer to the operative as great and memorable as that from the man to the farmer (..)

84. My furniture, part of which I made myself—and the rest cost me nothing of which I have not rendered an account—consisted of a bed, a table, a desk, three chairs, a looking-glass three inches in diameter, a pair of tongs and andirons, a kettle, a skillet, and a frying-pan, a dipper, a wash-bowl, two knives and forks, three plates, one cup, one spoon, a jug for oil, a jug for molasses, and a japanned lamp.

85a. Indeed, the more you have of such things the poorer you are.

85b. The muskrat will gnaw his third leg off to be free.

87.   "The evil that men do lives after them."

89a. For more than five years I maintained myself thus solely by the labor of my hands, and I found that, by working about six weeks in a year, I could meet all the expenses of living.

89b. I have thoroughly tried school-keeping, and found that my expenses were in proportion, or rather out of proportion, to my income, for I was obliged to dress and train, not to say think and believe, accordingly, and I lost my time into the bargain.

90a. (..)  for my greatest skill has been to want but little (..)

90b. But I have since learned that trade curses everything it handles; and though you trade in messages from heaven, the whole curse of trade attaches to the business.

91. In short, I am convinced, both by faith and experience, that to maintain one's self on this earth is not a hardship but a pastime, if we will live simply and wisely (..)

92.  (..) I desire that there may be as many different persons in the world as possible; but I would have each one be very careful to find out and pursue his own way, and not his father's or his mother's or his neighbor's instead.

93a. The only co-operation which is commonly possible is exceedingly partial and superficial; and what little true co-operation there is, is as if it were not, being a harmony inaudible to men.

93b. I confess that I have hitherto indulged very little in philanthropic enterprises.

94a. As for Doing-good, that is one of the professions which are full. Moreover, I have tried it fairly, and, strange as it may seem, am satisfied that it does not agree with my constitution.

94b. But I would not stand between any man and his genius; and to him who does this work, which I decline, with his whole heart and soul and life, I would say, Persevere, even if the world call it doing evil, as it is most likely they will.

95. What good I do, in the common sense of that word, must be aside from my main path, and for the most part wholly unintended.

96a. There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted.

96b. If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life (..) for fear that I should get some of his good done to me (..)

96c. A man is not a good man to me because he will feed me if I should be starving, or warm me if I should be freezing, or pull me out of a ditch if I should ever fall into one. I can find you a Newfoundland dog that will do as much.

98a.  There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root (..)

98b. Some show their kindness to the poor by employing them in their kitchens. Would they not be kinder if they employed themselves there?

100a. His goodness must not be a partial and transitory act, but a constant superfluity, which costs him nothing and of which he is unconscious.

100b. If anything ail a man, so that he does not perform his functions, if he have a pain in his bowels even—for that is the seat of sympathy—he forthwith sets about reforming—the world.

101. I never dreamed of any enormity greater than I have committed. I never knew, and never shall know, a worse man than myself.

102a. If, then, we would indeed restore mankind by truly Indian, botanic, magnetic, or natural means, let us first be as simple and well as Nature ourselves, dispel the clouds which hang over our own brows, and take up a little life into our pores.

102b. Do not stay to be an overseer of the poor, but endeavor to become one of the worthies of the world.

2. Where the rest is

I hope you were pleased. It is not quite like reading the real thing, but then reading the above takes quite a lot less time.

Now as to where the rest is: It'll probably follow tomorrow, for most of the quotations - that I like(d) - are in the first chapter, though there are some more that are good in the later chapters.

Also, since the underlinings are almost 39 years old, you may ask whether I disagree with what I read or underlined. My answer is that I do not: I have remarkably little changed these nearly 40 years - I even look the same, except that my hair is somewhat greyish. 

There are some differences between me-at-24 and me-at-63, but they are less than in anyone else I know, also externally. But then I do not drink, and I was ill for 35 years, during which I did little, though I thought and read a lot.

But I am mostly the same as I was then, even though I know few will believe it. The main differences are (1) I can do far less than I could then, since 35 years, and especially the last 22 years, and (2) I changed some of my thoughts since 1974, though again less than most, is my guess, and indeed what did change has most to do with technical philosophy - and most of these changes were in the 5 years from 1975-1980.

Finally, I found this quite surprising, especially since I did read a lot since then, and more than almost anyone else. (No TV! And no wife, no children, and no job.) But my fundamental character is quite the same for some 40 years now, which is definitely not something I would have believed the first 10 or 20 of these years.

More tomorrow, I suppose (and the supposal is only added because I am not feeling well).


About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

       home - index - summaries - mail