Thoreau’s letter from a distant land (Walden 2)

We begin, and Thoreau tells a little about why he’s writing this book:

“I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience.  Moreover, I, on my side, require of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men’s lives; some such account as he would send to his kindred from a distant land; for if he has lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me.” — from “Economy,” Walden

Sometimes it seems that way, doesn’t it? The person you’re talking to seems so far away from your point of view that they might as well be in another country. Individually, we each know little of the world. The world is big, and our experience is small. We learn by sharing each others’ experiences through the act of telling and listening to stories, sharing our ideas.

Walden is Henry’s “simple and sincere” account of a portion of his life. A century and a half has passed since he wrote it, and today we are living in a distant land indeed. It would be a strange experience to find ourselves learning from a man who went to live alone in the woods in the 1840s. Stranger still to find that his book had grown even more relevant in the intervening years.

(About  “A Year in Walden”)


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