Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts


From Walden, 1854

However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man's abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace. The town's poor seem to me often to live the most independent lives of any. Maybe they are simply great enough to receive without misgiving. Most think that they are above being supported by the town; but it oftener happens that they are not above supporting themselves by dishonest means, which should be more disreputable.

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. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts. God will see that you do not want society. If I were confined to a corner of a garret all my days, like a spider, the world would be just as large to me while I had my thoughts about me.

The philosopher said: "From an army of three divisions one can take away its general, and put it in disorder; from the man the most abject and vulgar one cannot take away his thought." Do not seek so anxiously to be developed, to subject yourself to many influences to be played on; it is all dissipation.

Humility like darkness reveals the heavenly lights. The shadows of poverty and meanness gather around us, "and lo! creation widens to our view." We are often reminded that if there were bestowed on us the wealth of Croesus, our aims must still be the same, and our means essentially the same. Moreover, if you are restricted in your range by poverty, if you cannot buy books and newspapers, for instance, you are but confined to the most significant and vital experiences; you are compelled to deal with the material which yields the most sugar and the most starch. It is life near the bone where it is sweetest.


-Henry David Thoreau

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I parked too close to a dumpster today and scraped and dented my car while backing out - ouch. Reading this comforted me.

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5 comments:

Surfsister said...

It's ironic that you did this post. I recently re-read Thoreau as I was doing research for something I'm supposed to be writing (but have yet to start).

Thoreau should be required reading for all, particularly those of us who live in cities.

Michael S-A said...

Ouch is right! Sorry about your car. It reminds me of when my car was stolen, and I was comforted by the story of a buddhist who let a stranger into his house. In the morning he found the stranger gone, and all his possessions stolen or broken. Of the departed stranger the buddhist said, "he was a good friend. I miss him terribly."

Beautiful photo, by the way....

Clare said...

gosh, when I read this yesterday I completed missed the bottom part about your car. Ouchy. Poor you.

Jamie Watson said...

Thanks friends. Surfsister - let me know how the writing goes - sounds interesting. Think I'll pick up a copy of Walden again.

sulu-design said...

Wow. I really, really needed this today. Lack of sleep this week has made me super tired, which always makes my emotions a bit off kilter. I was having a bit of a boo-hoo for me moment last night about the silliest, most trivial things, and this post is the perfect antidote. Thank you.