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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau


hearts, and clothe themselves in their holiday garments to offer
sacrifices and oblations to their ancestors. It is an ocean of subtile
intelligences. They are everywhere, above us, on our left, on our
right; they environ us on all sides."

We are the subjects of an experiment which is not a little interesting
to me. Can we not do without the society of our gossips a little while
under these circumstances-have our own thoughts to cheer us?
Confucius says truly, "Virtue does not remain as an abandoned
orphan; it must of necessity have neighbors."

With thinking we may be beside ourselves in a sane sense. By a
conscious effort of the mind we can stand aloof from actions and
their consequences; and all things, good and bad, go by us like a
torrent. We are not wholly involved in Nature. I may be either the
driftwood in the stream, or Indra in the sky looking down on it. I
may be affected by a theatrical exhibition; on the other hand, I may
not be affected by an actual event which appears to concern me
much more. I only know myself as a human entity; the scene, so to
speak, of thoughts and affections; and am sensible of a certain
doubleness by which I can stand as remote from myself as from
another. However intense my experience, I am conscious of the
presence and criticism of a part of me, which, as it were, is not a part
of me, but spectator, sharing no experience, but taking note of it, and
that is no more I than it is you. When the play, it may be the tragedy,
of life is over, the spectator goes his way. It was a kind of fiction, a
work of the imagination only, so far as he was concerned. This
doubleness may easily make us poor neighbors and friends
sometimes.

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in
company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I
love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so
companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely
when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers.
A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he
will. Solitude is not measured by the miles of space that intervene
between a man and his fellows. The really diligent student in one of
the crowded hives of Cambridge College is as solitary as a dervis in
the desert. The farmer can work alone in the field or the woods all
day, hoeing or chopping, and not feel lonesome, because he is
employed; but when he comes home at night he cannot sit down in a
room alone, at the mercy of his thoughts, but must be where he can
"see the folks," and recreate, and, as he thinks, remunerate himself
for his dayís solitude; and hence he wonders how the student can sit
alone in the house all night and most of the day without ennui and
"the blues"; but he does not realize that the student, though in the
house, is still at work in his field, and chopping in his woods, as the
farmer in his, and in turn seeks the same recreation and society that
the latter does, though it may be a more condensed form of it.

Society is commonly too cheap. We meet at very short intervals, not
having had time to acquire any new value for each other. We meet at
meals three times a day, and give each other a new taste of that old
musty cheese that we are. We have had to agree on a certain set of
rules, called etiquette and politeness, to make this frequent meeting
tolerable and that we need not come to open war. We meet at the
post-office, and at the sociable, and about the fireside every night;
we live thick and are in each otherís way, and stumble over one
another, and I think that we thus lose some respect for one another.
Certainly less frequency would suffice for all important and hearty
communications. Consider the girls in a factory-never alone, hardly
in their dreams. It would be better if there were but one inhabitant to
a square mile, as where I live. The value of a man is not in his skin,
that we should touch him.

I have heard of a man lost in the woods and dying of famine and
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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau



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