Saturday, April 3, 2010

"It is never too late to give up your prejudices."

Henry David Thoreau's "Walden" came through the library today. It was a version that has Thoreau's original text along with annotations in the margins. I opened it up to find my favorite passage (everyone's favorite passage) -- you know, the one about going to the woods to live deliberately, sucking marrow, yada yada yada. It's a great passage, each word resonating with meaning. In the margin, though, is a quote from a letter Thoreau had written to H. G. O. Blake in 1848 (emphasis mine):
I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest man thinks he must attend to in a day; how singular an affair he thinks he must omit. When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he first frees the equation of all encumbrances, and reduces it to its simplest terms. So simply the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run.
Years later, in a journal entry, he wrote, "There are two kinds of simplicity,--one that is akin to foolishness, the other to wisdom. The philosopher's style of living is only outwardly simple, but inwardly complex."

Ah, simplicity: I'm rethinking my plans.

It's funny - sometimes you read things that speak straight to you. There's nothing to consider, analyze, and interpret: it's directly there. Thoreau speaks plainly but deeply.

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