Simply Put

This story (above) is out there a lot these days, which is to say: we at the Thoreau You Don't Know aren't the only one thinking that Thoreau is feeling particularly relevant at this moment in history, or re-history. One of our staff just called from a cell phone to say something along these lines: "Look, think about it. A lot of people who are in their thirties and forties, they have been through the good (economic) times. They are not used to the bad (economic) times. They don't know how to cope. They need a way to cope." The rest of the staff here agrees, but we chafe when we see a headline--RECESSION!--and then a picture of a cabin in the woods, or a description of Thoreau living simply, with no TV. Coping doesn't mean running away; it doesn't call for asceticism. It means sticking around. Thoreau didn't leave town, even when he went to Walden Pond. That was his point. To find Labrador at home, the far magnificent Utopia in your soul, in the sound of the guy whistling down the street.

To wit, from Walden:

What does Africa- what does the West stand for? Is not our own interior white on the chart? black though it may prove, like the coast, when discovered. Is it the source of the Nile, or the Niger, or the Mississippi, or a Northwest Passage around this continent, that we would find? Are these the problems which most concern mankind? Is Franklin the only man who is lost, that his wife should be so earnest to find him? Does Mr. Grinnell know where he himself is? Be rather the Mungo Park, the Lewis and Clark and Frobisher, of your own streams and oceans; explore your own higher latitudes- with shiploads of preserved meats to support you, if they be necessary; and pile the empty cans sky-high for a sign. Were preserved meats invented to preserve meat merely? Nay, be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought. Every man is the lord of a realm beside which the earthly empire of the Czar is but a petty state, a hummock left by the ice.

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