The Vision of Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) had a truly exceptional vision of the world. The facts of Thoreau’s life are appropriately spare for one who wrote, “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand. . . .” . That’s enough to get a picture of the man. With that said, here are some of my personal favorites:

Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.

Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so. Aim above morality.

Be not simply good; be good for something.

If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life.

Law never made men a whit more just. Men are born to succeed, not to fail.

Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.

What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?

What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.
What is once well done is done forever.

What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.

We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success.

To have done anything just for money is to have been truly idle.

This world is but a canvas to our imagination.

There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.

The perception of beauty is a moral test.

The language of friendship is not words but meanings.

Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.

Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify.

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.

Not only must we be good, but we must also be good for something.

Men have become the tools of their tools.

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.

It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right.

In the long run, men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, they had better aim at something high.

Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion.

What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate.

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