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Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Happy 200th Birthday Homely Henry!

The Lit Hub Daily reminded me that today is the 200th anniversary of Henry David Thoreau's birth (1817), so I decided to repost this from 2013.

the Peace of Walden Pond

picture of Henry David Thoreau's retreat, Walden Pond

Hi Marvin,
Thanks for your commiseration, it's very much appreciated  : ) I'm not at all surprised that WALDEN is your all-time favourite book!

Last summer I picked up a thin copy of Thoreau's writings at the used book store in the nearby village of Madoc. I think it cost a buck, which went to supporting the Madoc Library. I read WALDEN and "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience" in my late teens. Of course both strongly resonated with me - I've always been a lover of nature and a solitary person by preference. But it was especially appropriate and inspiring that I read Civil Disobedience while I was in the process of sorting out my beliefs and course of action during the upheaval of the VN War. I wish this essay were more widely known & read.

So it's been almost half a century since I first explored Walden Pond and its surrounds with HDT  :  )  I admit that long stretches of Walden can still be a bit tedious, but on a more relaxed re-reading I'm finding there are many nuggets of wisdom scattered on every page, which I would have glossed over in my teens.

I'm also surprised at the breadth of Thoreau's knowledge & imaginings - wisdom. Much of the tone & tenor of Thoreau's writings reflect what I consider to be Hindu/Buddhist principles. HDT even mentioned the Bhagavad-Gita in the section I read last night.  HDT praised simplicity, reverence for nature, respect for one's fellow humans & neighbours, but with a healthy dose of New England Yankee distancing, which some might consider standoffishness.

The iconoclast in HDT is something which also resonates with me. I could perhaps interpret it as  'save yourself first', before you try to save the world. Keep yourself apart from the world as much as possible, & if the world & its craziness impedes too much on you, well, you have to take a moral stance, even if it means going to jail for the night in Concord for not paying your poll tax! Thoreau was an avid abolitionist of slavery, and he did occasionally break his own guidelines by giving public lectures against this.

Yes, on re-reading WALDEN I see that HDT had a much greater influence on the young me than even I realized. I had one very supportive English prof at the University of Miami, & every paper I turned in he'd praise with the suggestion that my newest production could be my Master's thesis. My thought was to do my thesis on HDT, but three draft notices in a week cut short my academic career, & a few months later I found myself living on Eel Pie Island in the middle of the Thames River on the outskirts of London, England! Living on Eel Pie Island wasn't exactly retreating beside Walden Pond, but it was one heck of an experience!

HDT's youthful influence is still reflected in my life. Now I've got my own quirky version of HDTs retreat with ZenRiver Gardens.  I'm 90% joking about going to live a Thoreauesque life at ZenRiver Gardens, but there is a 10% temptation to follow HDT's fine example. His cabin was 10 by 15 feet, while my shaman shack is an even more modest 10 by 10 (but then I do have the luxury of a 60 square foot deck!). It was a hoot to again read HDT's penny by peny accounting of the cost of building his shack, & the same New England penny-pinching accounting of his personal income & expenses. On further thought, in the warm months I do spend more than 10% of my time at ZenRiver, so I'm living a life at least partially in accordance with HDT's high standards.

Thank you Henry David Thoreau. Almost unknown and unread in your time, but a bellwether writer & thinker for the current state of life on our shrinking hillbilly planet.

peace & poetry power!
Chris/cricket and Chase Wrfffffffffffffffffffffffffzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz  

On 2013-12-21, at 10:35 PM, marvin orbach wrote:

Hi Chris,
   I am sorry to hear about all the problems you are having. I hope the new year brings   some relief.
   I send you happy solstice greetings.
    BTW,   Walden is my all-time favourite book. I worship Henry  David Thoreau.
     Cheers, from Montreal West.

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 Dec. 22/13

Hi Chris,
    I am not all surprised that Thoreau had such an important influence on you.   I was profoundly affected by his writings when I was a student. 
    As a matter of fact,  in my mind,  you are to some degree a Canadian Thoreau.
    Peace, Shalom.

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Dec. 22/13

my Walden Pond ? the puddle I make when I piss of of the deck !
I call it Mellow Yellow Pond !

ciao, Ed

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Dec. 31/13 (email excerpt)

Hi Gerry,
I'm still plodding my way thru WALDEN - I'm finding I can absorb just a few pages a night. There are more parallels with my life & HDT's WALDEN than I first realized - even his cabin has similar surroundings to my shaman shack at ZenRiver Gardens. There are sumacs in his side yard, white pines at the back, & of course the pond at the front (while I have the river). We both share visits from many of the same species of birds and mammals.  Some of Thoreau's descriptions of his day-to-day life have probably subconsciously influenced my haibun/blog postings. Of course I'm a fan of the Quakers - it was the Miami Friends Service Committee who offered me the most support with resisting the Vietnam War, & they let me print my underground newspaper, PAPERS, at their headquarters.
 - Chris

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 from Wikipedia:

Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau.jpg
Portrait by Benjamin D. Maxham (daguerreotype) of Henry David Thoreau in June 1856.
Born July 12, 1817
Concord, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died May 6, 1862 (aged 44)
Concord, Massachusetts, U.S.
Era 19th century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Transcendental idealism[1]
Main interests Ethics, Poetry, Religion, Politics, Biology, Philosophy, History
Alma mater Harvard College
Notable ideas Abolitionism, tax resistance, development criticism, civil disobedience, conscientious objection, direct action, environmentalism, anarchism, simple living
Signature Appletons' Thoreau Henry David signature.jpg

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