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Henry David Thoreau’s birthday

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Henry David Thoreau was born on this day in history, 186 years ago on July 12, 1817.

Of course Walden was his main book. I personally got more out of his famous essay on civil disobedience. I note that from the Amazon link below, they list used copies of a book with both for as little as $1.29.

The single most arresting thought I got from reading Thoreau was his talk about a wealthy farmer, except that it was the farm that really owned him rather than the other way around. This was not any kind of altruistic argument – that it’s bad for you to be rich- but an assessment of the investments of your very life involved.

That is, he was contemplating the costs of being rich, the extent to which your life can really be dominated by the seeking after wealth, how much the farmer’s entire existence was consumed by maintaining his holdings. This always puts me in mind of the decades of 12 hour days my father put into maintaining his modest business, and the experience of many other people I know.

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