Support the Monkey! Tell All your Friends and Teachers

Help / FAQ



<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next ->
PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau


a stocking behind the plastering, or, more safely, in the brick bank;
no matter where, no matter how much or how little.

I sometimes wonder that we can be so frivolous, I may almost say,
as to attend to the gross but somewhat foreign form of servitude
called Negro Slavery, there are so many keen and subtle masters that
enslave both North and South. It is hard to have a Southern overseer;
it is worse to have a Northern one; but worst of all when you are the
slave-driver of yourself. Talk of a divinity in man! Look at the
teamster on the highway, wending to market by day or night; does
any divinity stir within him? His highest duty to fodder and water his
horses! What is his destiny to him compared with the shipping
interests? Does not he drive for Squire Make-a-stir? How godlike,
how immortal, is he? See how he cowers and sneaks, how vaguely
all the day he fears, not being immortal nor divine, but the slave and
prisoner of his own opinion of himself, a fame won by his own
deeds. Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own
private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that it is which
determines, or rather indicates, his fate. Self-emancipation even in
the West Indian provinces of the fancy and imagination-what
Wilberforce is there to bring that about? Think, also, of the ladies of
the land weaving toilet cushions against the last day, not to betray
too green an interest in their fates! As if you could kill time without
injuring eternity.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called
resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go
into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the
bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereo-typed but unconscious
despair is concealed even under what are called the games

and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this
comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do
desperate things.

When we consider what, to use the words of the catechism, is the
chief end of man, and what are the true necessaries and means of
life, it appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode
of living because they preferred it to any other. Yet they honestly
think there is no choice left. But alert and healthy natures remember
that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to give up our prejudices.
No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted
without proof. What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true
today may turn out to be falsehood tomorrow, mere smoke of
opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would sprinkle
fertilizing rain on their fields. What old people say you cannot do,
you try and find that you can. Old deeds for old people, and new
deeds for new. Old people did not know enough once, perchance, to
fetch fresh fuel to keep the fire a-going; new people put a little dry
wood under a pot, and are whirled round the globe with the speed of
birds, in a way to kill old people, as the phrase is. Age is no better,
hardly so well, qualified for an instructor as youth, for it has not
profited so much as it has lost. One may almost doubt if the wisest
man has learned anything of absolute value by living. Practically, the
old have no very important advice to give the young, their own
experience has been so partial, and their lives have been such
miserable failures, for private reasons, as they must believe; and it
may be that they have some faith left which belies that experience,
and they are only less young than they were. I have lived some thirty
years on

this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or
even earnest advice from my seniors. They have told me nothing,
and probably cannot tell me anything to the purpose. Here is life, an
experiment to a great extent untried by me; but it does not avail me
that they have tried it. If I have any experience which I think
valuable, I am sure to reflect that this my Mentors said nothing
<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next ->
PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau



All Contents Copyright All rights reserved.
Further Distribution Is Strictly Prohibited.

About Us | Advertising | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Home Page


Search:
Keywords:
In Association with Amazon.com