May 17, 2013
me+ME: Quotations from "Walden" - 2
1. From all the other chapters of Thoreau's "Walden"
2. What I think (about me+ME, it turns out)
3. What I think (about Thoreau)
About ME/CFS


Well... I am still paying back my walk of over 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.

Otherwise, it's the same as yesterday - except that today, May 17, it is Norway's national day, of which a little more below - so I start with the quotes from all the other chapters but chapter 1, that was treated yesterday. The chapter titles have been inserted.

1. From all the other chapters of Thoreau's "Walden"


105. What is a house but a sedes, a seat?

106. (..) a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.

107. I found thus that I had been a rich man without any damage to my poverty.

116. Little is to be expected of that day, if it can be called a day, to which we are not awakened by our Genius, but by the mechanical nudgings of some servitor, are not awakened by our own newly acquired force and aspirations from within (..)

117. To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake.

118. 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.

119a. Our life is frittered away by detail.

119b. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!

119c. 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.

120. Men think that it is essential that the Nation have commerce, and export ice, and talk through a telegraph, and ride thirty miles an hour, without a doubt, whether they do or not; but whether we should live like baboons or like men, is a little uncertain.

121a. Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life?

121b. As for work, we haven't any of any consequence.

124. Shams and delusions are esteemed for soundest truths, while reality is fabulous. 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' Entertainments.

125. Children, who play life, discern its true law and relations more clearly than men, who fail to live it worthily, but who think that they are wiser by experience, that is, by failure.

128a. Be it life or death, we crave only reality.

128b. Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.

128c. The intellect is a cleaver; it discerns and rifts its way into the secret of things. I do not wish to be any more busy with my hands than is necessary. My head is hands and feet.


132. To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise, and one that will task the reader more than any exercise which the customs of the day esteem. It requires a training such as the athletes underwent, the steady intention almost of the whole life to this object. Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written.

134. What is called eloquence in the forum is commonly found to be rhetoric in the study.

135. Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.

136. The works of the great poets have never yet been read by mankind, for only great poets can read them.

137. Most men have learned to read to serve a paltry convenience, as they have learned to cipher in order to keep accounts and not be cheated in trade; but of reading as a noble intellectual exercise they know little or nothing (..)

139. What does our Concord culture amount to? There is in this town, with a very few exceptions, no taste for the best or for very good books even in English literature, whose words all can read and spell.

140. (..) and as for the sacred Scriptures, or Bibles of mankind, who in this town can tell me even their titles? Most men do not know that any nation but the Hebrews have had a scripture.

142a. Moreover, with wisdom we shall learn liberality.

142b. I do not wish to flatter my townsmen, nor to be flattered by them, for that will not advance either of us. We need to be provoked (..)

143a. We spend more on almost any article of bodily aliment or ailment than on our mental aliment. It is time that we had uncommon schools, that we did not leave off our education when we begin to be men and women. It is time that villages were universities, and their elder inhabitants the fellows of universities, with leisure—if they are, indeed, so well off—to pursue liberal studies the rest of their lives.

143b. In this country, the village should in some respects take the place of the nobleman of Europe. It should be the patron of the fine arts. It is rich enough. It wants only the magnanimity and refinement.

143c. (..) it is thought Utopian to propose spending money for things which more intelligent men know to be of far more worth.


146. I did not read books the first summer; I hoed beans.

147a. I love a broad margin to my life.

147b. I lived like the Puri Indians, of whom it is said that "for yesterday, today, and tomorrow they have only one word, and they express the variety of meaning by pointing backward for yesterday forward for tomorrow, and overhead for the passing day."

148. If we were always, indeed, getting our living, and regulating our lives according to the last and best mode we had learned, we should never be troubled with ennui.

155. They go and come with such regularity and precision, and their whistle can be heard so far, that the farmers set their clocks by them, and thus one well-conducted institution regulates a whole country

159. I confess, that practically speaking, when I have learned a man's real disposition, I have no hopes of changing it for the better or worse in this state of existence.


170.  (..) yet, like the lake, my serenity is rippled but not ruffled.

173. There was never yet such a storm but it was Ĉolian music to a healthy and innocent ear. Nothing can rightly compel a simple and brave man to a vulgar sadness. While I enjoy the friendship of the seasons I trust that nothing can make life a burden to me.

175. What sort of space is that which separates a man from his fellows and makes him solitary?

177. With thinking we may be beside ourselves in a sane sense. By a conscious effort of the mind we can stand aloof from actions and their consequences; and all things, good and bad, go by us like a torrent. We are not wholly involved in Nature.

178. I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.

179a. Society is commonly too cheap.

179b. We have had to agree on a certain set of rules, called etiquette and politeness, to make this frequent meeting tolerable and that we need not come to open war.


184a. I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.

184b. It is surprising how many great men and women a small house will contain. I have had twenty-five or thirty souls, with their bodies, at once under my roof, and yet we often parted without being aware that we had come very near to one another.

185. Individuals, like nations, must have suitable broad and natural boundaries, even a considerable neutral ground, between them.

186. (..) there are many fine things which we cannot say if we have to shout.

189. I had more visitors while I lived in the woods than at any other period in my life (..)

193. In him the animal man chiefly was developed. (..) But the intellectual and what is called spiritual man in him were slumbering as in an infant. He had been instructed only in that innocent and ineffectual way in which the Catholic priests teach the aborigines, by which the pupil is never educated to the degree of consciousness, but only to the degree of trust and reverence, and a child is not made a man, but kept a child.

197. Yet I never, by any manoeuvring, could get him to take the spiritual view of things; the highest that he appeared to conceive of was a simple expediency, such as you might expect an animal to appreciate; and this, practically, is true of most men.

202. Finally, there were the self-styled reformers, the greatest bores of all (..)


218a. Ancient poetry and mythology suggest, at least, that husbandry was once a sacred art; but it is pursued with irreverent haste and heedlessness by us (..)

218b. We have no festival, nor procession, nor ceremony, not excepting our cattle-shows and so-called Thanksgivings, by which the farmer expresses a sense of the sacredness of his calling, or is reminded of its sacred origin.


221. Every day or two I strolled to the village to hear some of the gossip which is incessantly going on there, circulating either from mouth to mouth, or from newspaper to newspaper, and which, taken in homoeopathic doses, was really as refreshing in its way as the rustle of leaves and the peeping of frogs.

226a. It is a surprising and memorable, as well as valuable experience, to be lost in the woods any time.

226b. In our most trivial walks, we are constantly, though unconsciously, steering like pilots by certain well-known beacons and headlands (..)

227a. Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.

227b. But, wherever a man goes, men will pursue and paw him with their dirty institutions, and, if they can, constrain him to belong to their desperate odd-fellow society.

227c. I was never molested by any person but those who represented the State.

228. I am convinced, that if all men were to live as simply as I then did, thieving and robbery would be unknown. These take place only in communities where some have got more than is sufficient while others have not enough.



272. (..)  that I did not use tea, nor coffee, nor butter, nor milk, nor fresh meat, and so did not have to work to get them; again, as I did not work hard, I did not have to eat hard, and it cost me but a trifle for my food (..)

276a. Grow wild according to thy nature (..)

276b. Let not to get a living be thy trade, but thy sport.


278. I found in myself, and still find, an instinct toward a higher, or, as it is named, spiritual life, as do most men, and another toward a primitive rank and savage one, and I reverence them both.

279. We are most interested when science reports what those men already know practically or instinctively, for that alone is a true humanity, or account of human experience.

286. No man ever followed his genius till it misled him.

287. I believe that water is the only drink for a wise man (..)

293. We are so degraded that we cannot speak simply of the necessary functions of human nature.


299. Why do precisely these objects which we behold make a world?


316. (..) heedlessly measuring them by the bushel and the dollar only  (..)




378. It is remarkable how long men will believe in the bottomlessness of a pond without taking the trouble to sound it.

384. If we knew all the laws of Nature, we should need only one fact, or the description of one actual phenomenon, to infer all the particular results at that point.


415. 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 did not spend our time in atoning for the neglect of past opportunities, which we call doing our duty.


422. The universe is wider than our views of it.

425. It is said that Mirabeau took to highway robbery "to ascertain what degree of resolution was necessary in order to place one's self in formal opposition to the most sacred laws of society."

426a. I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one. It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves.

426b. How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity!

427a. I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

427b. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.

429a. Why level downward to our dullest perception always, and praise that as common sense? The commonest sense is the sense of men asleep, which they express by snoring. Sometimes we are inclined to class those who are once-and-a-half-witted with the half-witted, because we appreciate only a third part of their wit.

429b. While England endeavors to cure the potato-rot, will not any endeavor to cure the brain-rot, which prevails so much more widely and fatally?

430. A living dog is better than a dead lion. Shall a man go and hang himself because he belongs to the race of pygmies, and not be the biggest pygmy that he can? Let every one mind his own business, and endeavor to be what he was made.

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

433a. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse.

433b. 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. Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage.

438a. There is not one of my readers who has yet lived a whole human life.

438b. We are acquainted with a mere pellicle of the globe on which we live. Most have not delved six feet beneath the surface, nor leaped as many above it. We know not where we are. Beside, we are sound asleep nearly half our time.

What I think (about me+ME, it turns out)

As I told you yesterday, I am very little changed, in almost 40 years, even in how I look, except that my hair is greyish. It does depend to some extent on how I feel, and what it proves I do not know, especially since it does not make me feel fitter.

Now as to Thoreau and the "17. mai", to write it in Norwegian, for today it is Norway's national day.

It is relevant, for I did more or less what Thoreau did, or a little longer: I lived from January 1 1975 till somewhere in July 1977, say 2 years, 7 months and 7 days (I am guessing at the days at the moment: It may have been a few more) in Norway.

There are some differences: I did live very simply though I did not live alone, but with a Norwegian woman, and it happened more or less accidentally: We had decided - then living in Amsterdam, in a houseboat - that we wanted to go on holiday, and ended up for the first year in Dovre, and the rest of the time in Lom, the birthplace of Henry Miller's hero Knut Hamsun.

Also, while at first we had decided to stay 2 or 3 months in Dovre, in a blockhut built in 1795, that did not even have water, we liked it so much that we stayed there, also because we both got work during the summer, hearding and milking cows on a summer farm in the mountains.

After that, my girl friend - I never married, but lived with 5 women, successively - accepted a job as a journalist in Lom, in fact being the responsible journalist for - I believe - some 2000 square kilometers (mostly mountainous, without people), and since she could not drive and dared not drive, I did the driving, for I had gotten a permission to stay in Norway, but did not get a permission to work there.

I did go back to Holland in 1976, twice, to get my diploma that allowed me to enter university, but going there in 1976 was screwed up by false information by the study-advisor of philososphy.

So I got there in 1977 - but then had to stop my study on January 1, 1978, again because of
false information by the study-advisor of philososphy, although I did make sufficient points for the whole year.

And that is how I ended up in September 1978, also starting psychology, next to philosophy, this time living with a Dutch girl friend, and then we both fell ill in January 1979, me on the 1st of January, she on the 10th of January, both with Pfeiffer's disease (aka kissing disease, infectious mononucleosis etc.)

Now you may very well say, when you have read more of me, what is the point of repeating this, but in fact I did find something out about my disease today, that may well be quite important for its understanding.

But this will have to wait till later, and its own NL

3. What I think (about Thoreau)

So before turning to my discovery about ME/CFS - yes, it is one, regardless of whether I am right or not - I'll say something about Thoreau, namely this:

I really like him. I like living simply; I like his general attitudes, though I am not a transcendentalist, nor an ordinary anarchist (but neither was Thoreau); I like his inegalitarianism combined with equal rights; and I also like his Civil Disobedience, which I hope to treat later.

More to follow later, both about ME/CFS and about Thoreau, though I make no promises about today.


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