Archetypes of Simplicity – Thoreau

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  from “Walden” by H.D. Thoreau

Simplicity isn’t simple, of course. If it were we would all be living a life of freedom and joy because we all have a deep longing for such a life, even if it is firmly buried under layers of conditioned beliefs. Out of that deep reservoir of longing occasionally arise exemplars, archetypes if you will, to remind us that we are living lives of unnatural melancholy.

Henry David Thoreau is the first name that springs to the American mind when the subject of simplicity arises. Idolized by some, pooh-poohed by others, he remains the archetype for a simple life, a natural life, a life lived as one with one’s wild surroundings. His oft-quoted words about, “quiet desperation,” should not be taken as a condemnation but as a call to arms. His two year experiment at Walden was undertaken to prove to himself that life need not be desperate at all. Indeed it can be quite free and joyful when lived with simplicity in harmony with nature.

“I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil — to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the school committee and every one of you will take care of that.”  From “Walking” by H.D. Thoreau

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“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to confront only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”   from “Walden”

Our own “Walden” is beginning to take shape but its material form is still quite a few months away. We are gathering, as did Thoreau, the necessary tools and materials. Unlike Thoreau who was schooled in self-reliance and knew how to build a house, we are completely unschooled in the intricacies of a nomadic trailer life. We have lots of learning ahead and a great deal of personal growth will be necessary in order to so radically change our way of living. The above quote from Thoreau has become a guiding principle for our journey.

 

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