thoreau: voluntary simplicity

…Thoreau was in no haste to move in. Once the frame was up, he did the remaining carpentry slowly, living in the meantime with his parents and walking back and forth to the pond each day, carrying his lunch wrapped in a paper. When warmer weather came, he cleared the briar field and planted two and a half acres, with beans and potatoes for money crops, and with corn, peas, and turnips for his own use.

On July 4,1845- Independence Day, appropriately enough- he borrowed a hayrack to cart his few articles of furniture out to the cabin and moved in. As yet he had no chimney nor fireplace, and the walls, still unplastered had wide chinks that let in the cool air at night. Later, when he had completed the cabin, he described it as, “a tight shingled and plastered house, ten feet wide by fifteen feet long, and eight-feet posts, with a garret and a closet, a large window on each side, two trap doors, one door at the end, and a brick fireplace opposite.”

---Where's Walden Pond? GPS often doesn't know A boy walks around a replica of Henry David Thoreau's one-room cabin at Walden Pond in Concord, Mass. GPS often leads visitors to the wrong Walden in Lynn, Mass. ---click image for source...

—Where’s Walden Pond? GPS often doesn’t know
A boy walks around a replica of Henry David Thoreau’s one-room cabin at Walden Pond in Concord, Mass. GPS often leads visitors to the wrong Walden in Lynn, Mass. —click image for source…

Out back was a woodshed. Close by-Thoreau was too much the Victorian to say exactly where- was a privy. The pond was his bathtub and refigerator. And the spring under nearby Brister’s Hill provided his drinking water when the pond was too warm. The cabin cost Thoreau exactly $28.12 1/2; his only extravagance was $3.90 for nails. Despite his boasted dexterity, he was apparently a bad shot with a hammer, and when the site of the Walden cabin was excavated, the cellar hole was found filled with hundreds of bent nails.

Ellery Channing, who visited the cabin often, hasaptly described it as a wooden inkstand on the shores of Walden Pond. “Just large enough for one…a durable garment, an overcoat, he had contrived and left by Walden, convenient for shelter, sleep or meditation.”

The inside of the cabin was as simple as the outside. Thoreau’s total furniture, much of it homemade, consisted of a “bed, a table, a desk, three chairs, a looking glass three inches in diameter, a pair of tongs and andirons, a kettle, a skillet, and a frying pan, a dipper, a washbowl, two knives and forks, three plates, one cup, one spoon, a jug for oil, a jug for molasses, and a japanned lamp.” For a time he kept three pieces of limestone on the desk, but threw them out when he found they required daily dusting. When a friend offered a mat for the floor, he declined it, saying he did not want to spare the room for it nor the time to shake it out.


(see link at end)…When we reflect on Thoreau we must always consider the sanity of the world in juxtaposition to his. Take his first experience as a school-master. In his system of pedagogy he finds no place for the whipping rod; for this heresy the headmaster calls him to account; being an honest man he must deliver what is expected of him for his wages; therefore, he lines up at random a half dozen of his pupils and thoroughly flogs them. He has done his duty by the headmaster. But, he must be honest with his axioms, too; therefore, he resigns. He could not afford to let Thoreau drift into false values. Was he or the pedagogic rule queer?

A professor of economics once told me that the last word on the subject was pronounced by Henry George. “Do you teach him?” I asked. “No, he is not in the curriculum, and if I tried to teach Henry George it would be worth my job/’ Thoreau could not understand that kind of thinking. If flogging were part of the curriculum he would cut himself off from it. He valued Thoreau more than his job.

We talk a lot about freedom these days. When you dig to the bottom of this talk you realize that, first, very few know what freedom is and, secondly, still fewer want it. The fact is that what is generally called freedom consists of increases in wages (or handouts), more profits (or subsidies) and a bottomless abundance of privileges. For such things we — particularly the more affluent among us — are ready to lay freedom on the line. The essence of freedom, which is an inflexible respect for oneself, is being bartered every day for such trifles.Read More:

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