Born on July 12, 1817, Henry David Thoreau was an American essayist, poet, and practical philosopher, widely recognized for his masterworks Walden and Civil Disobedience.
The first one is a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, inspired by transcendentalist philosophy, and the second one is an essay that reveals Thoreau’s defense of the private, individual conscience.
Thoreau’s work has influenced the American Civil Rights Movement and inspired many leaders.
“All good things are wild and free.”
“Things do not change; we change.”
“It is never too late to give up your prejudices”
“Dreams are the touchstones of our characters.”
The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”
“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.”
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”
“It is not worth the while to let our imperfections disturb us always.”
“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”
“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.”
“Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.”
“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”
“Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.”
If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.
“Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn you attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.”
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.”
“Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience.”
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”
“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”
“However mean your life is, meet 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 doors as early in the spring. Cultivate property 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… Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only. Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul.”