Happy birthday, Mr. Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau was born on this day in 1817.

There are a lot of myths about his life—chief among these, that he was a hermit. I can see how people would conclude that from his deeply reflective writing. But his biographers seem to agree that he was actually rather a sociable fellow (albeit with a penchant for Deep Thoughts).

In honor of his birthday, here are two of those deep thoughts that still resonate more than 150 years after they were penned. Happy birthday, Mr. Thoreau!

Every ambitious would-be empire, clarions it abroad that she is conquering the world to bring it peace, security and freedom, and it is sacrificing her sons only for the most noble and humanitarian purposes. That is a lie; and it is an ancient lie, yet generations still rise and believe it.

Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Turn the old; return to them. Things do not change; we change. The very simplicity and nakedness of man’s life in the primitive ages imply this advantage, at least, that they left him still but a sojourner in nature. To be awake is to be alive. —Walden, 1854

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