Thoreau – “Where I Lived and What I Lived For”

The section “Where I lived, and What I Lived For” was riddled with profound messages.  I found that much of it can be applied to modern society and our lives today.  In the beginning portion of it Thoreau tells us about how strict his willpower was when it came to purchasing items or property.  He writes, “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”  This a skill that many people fail to attain nowadays.  Thoreau was what we now call a minimalist.  He lived in a consumer nation then and we live in an even more extreme one now.   He also points out that we not only have an obsession with material objects, but also over consume news and media.  

Thoreau strongly states his opinion on news, and it is one of major opposition.  He writes, “Hardly a man takes a half-hour’s nap after dinner, but when he wakes he holds up his head and asks, “What’s the news?” as if the rest of mankind had stood his sentinels.”  I cracked a smile when I read these words because of how pertinent it is still today.  How many times do you see someone check their social media feed and only minutes later check it again?  It’s as if they are afraid they’ll miss something if they don’t.  “To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, and if they who edit and read it are old women over their tea.”   This, to me, defines social media today.  The “old women” have been replaced with young women and men.  It is still but mere gossip and we are still able to edit and read it, only much quicker nowadays and with the limitation of only 140 characters.  I have deleted all of my social media accounts and have seen innumerable improvements.  If you would like to read more about my thoughts and experiences with social media check out my post titled “Social Media”.  

“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.”  An excerpt from one of the most well written, oft quoted, and personal favorite paragraphs from this book.   It gives the reader a beautiful and logical explanation of what Thoreau’s entire venture was about.  He wished to simplify life and get to the root of what this is all about.  To hopefully discover if life is good or evil and to live accordingly.  The reason this book has lived with such a desire for so long and the reason it continues to live is not because it serves as a guide to someone looking to live in the woods literally, but a guide to help you find your own “woods” and to teach us to carry out life deliberately.  

“That man who does not believe that each day contains an earlier, more sacred, and auroral hour than he has yet profaned, has despaired of life, and is pursuing a descending and darkening way.”  A description of the feeling of hopelessness and melancholy.  Or maybe the opposite, a feeling of overwhelming ambition and bliss.  The latter is the way Thoreau says we should feel and I agree.  I found this section of the chapter very important, mainly because I’ve seen both sides of life.  I’ve hated myself and everything life had or didn’t have to offer each morning when I awoke.  I’ve felt hopeless and discouraged with the way things were going and you’d be a liar if you said you never did too.  Truth be told, we’ve all felt this way so we can empathize with the ones who currently do.  But I’ve also seen the other side of the spectrum.  The beautiful feeling of loving everything and everyone life has to offer.  Waking up with a smile on your face just happy to be alive and ready for anything thrown your way.  I think what Thoreau means is that life is too short to be in a fit of melancholy.  It is not long enough to get caught up in trivial matters.  Don’t give up and always  “Suck the marrow out of life.”


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