Tag Archives: career

Doing what you love… and the “curse of trade” (Walden 39)

“When formerly I was looking about to see what I could do for a living… I thought often and seriously of picking huckleberries; that surely I could do, and its small profits might suffice — for my greatest skill has been to want but little — so little capital it required, so little distraction from my wonted moods, I foolishly thought.  …I also dreamed that I might gather the wild herbs, or carry evergreens to such villagers as loved to be reminded of the woods, even to the city, by hay-cart loads.  But I have since learned that trade curses everything it handles; and though you trade in messages from heaven, the whole curse of trade attaches to the business.” — Henry David Thoreau, “Economy,” Walden

Some people tell you to find a way to do what you love for a living. That’s what Henry was trying to do. He loved writing, but hadn’t made any money at it. But he also loved nature. He loved wandering around in the woods — why not find a way to make some money doing that? Continue reading


That loafer, Thoreau, on walking in the woods and finding gold

“If a man walk in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer; but if he spends his whole day as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making earth bald before her time, he is esteemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.”

– Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau, 1817-1862

One of the things I love about Thoreau is the way he made a righteous cause of what his contemporaries regarded as idleness. After finding the above quote on The W Perspective, I looked up the full essay, which Thoreau delivered as a lecture in 1854 and edited for publication before he died. It was published as “Life without Principle” in the Atlantic Monthly in 1863. An annotated version is here. Like so much of what Thoreau wrote, the essay is pithy, quietly passionate, a bit self-righteous, and well worth reading. A biographer described it as “in a few pages the very essence of Thoreau’s philosophy.” Here are some highlights: Continue reading