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Excerpt 1 from Henry David Thoreau's "Walden"

Posted November 04 2012

HenryDavidThoreau-Walden-Cover We are extremely delighted to bring you the audio recording of Henry David Thoreau's classic work, Walden -- a chronicle of his communion with nature that became one of the most influential and compelling books in American literature.  The following excerpt illustrates Thoreau's profound observations on the meaning of work -- and how not all work serves the one doing it.

When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house, which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months. At present, I am a sojourner in civilized life again.
 
I would fain say something, not so much concerning the Chinese and Sandwich Islanders as you who read these pages, who are said to live in New England; something about your condition, especially your outward condition or circumstances in this world, in this town, what it is, whether it is necessary that it be as bad as it is, whether it cannot be improved as well as not. I have traveled a good deal in Concord; and everywhere, in shops, and offices, and fields, the inhabitants have appeared to me to be doing penance in a thousand remarkable ways.

What I have heard of Brahmins sitting exposed to four fires and looking in the face of the sun; or hanging suspended, with their heads downward, over flames; or looking at the heavens over their shoulders until it becomes impossible for them to resume their natural position, while from the twist of the neck nothing but liquids can pass into the stomach; or dwelling, chained for life, at the foot of a tree; or measuring with their bodies, like caterpillars, the breadth of vast empires; or standing on one leg on the tops of pillars. Even these forms of conscious penance are hardly more incredible and astonishing than the scenes which I daily witness.
 
I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in. Who made them serfs of the soil? Why should they eat their sixty acres, when man is condemned to eat only his peck of dirt? Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they are born?
 
But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon plowed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in the old book, laying up treasures, which moth and rust will corrupt, and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool's life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before.

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