Roman Malanke

The Lesson from Thoreau

Today I finished reading “Walden”, a widely acclaimed book by an American philosopher and transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau. Many influential people of our age listed this book among the essential sources contributing to their personal formation, so when I set about reading it I was sure I would not be disappointed. What I couldn’t imagine though, is that it would take me a whole year to finish it!

Partially, my snail’s pace can be explained by the age of the book (it was published in 1854), so the language is quite different from the English used in modern literature. But the real reason, I think, lies in the intellectual density of the text. At times it was almost painfully difficult to read. I had to do a mini investigation in every other line to fully understand references to ancient philosophers, Greek and Roman mythology, classical literature, and allusions to spiritual texts. Despite all this I enjoyed and savored every single sentence. Oftentimes I stopped and reflected on an idea for several long minutes before moving on.

The book represents an account of author’s experiences and thoughts collected over the two years he spent living alone in a house he built for himself in the middle of the woods close to the Walden Pond in Massachusetts. Being closer to the wild nature allowed Thoreau to more objectively examine human motivation and problems that citizens and society dealt with. Most of the issues touched in the book are timeless and despite all technological advances of the last 150 years are perfectly applicable to our lives today.

The single most important lesson I took from this book is on the value of simplicity. Simpler living and reducing waste on a personal level not only makes one more truly satisfied with one’s life, but also results in healthier and happier society. Leading a simpler life and learning to truly appreciate and enjoy essential things around us is the most reliable recipe for fulfilling our purpose.

It was a little sad to turn the last page, since over the year the book has become my true companion. But I will keep it on my shelf and will surely revert to it over the course of my life.