Friday, September 6, 2013

Sep 6 (1847) H.D. Thoreau Leaves Walden Pond: "Men will believe what they see. Let them see."

Thoreau's cove, Lake Walden, Concord, Mass. From loc.gov

I awoke feeling philosophical. Perhaps I was feeling connected to Henry David Thoreau who, on this early Fall day September 6, 1847, left his cabin at Walden Pond to live with his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Thoreau was a great man of letters (though perhaps not a fan of cashiers at banks). Below is an excerpt from a correspondence with Harrison Gray Otis Blake of Worcester, MA on the importance of simplicity.

I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest man thinks he must attend to in a day; how singular an affair he thinks he must omit. When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he first frees the equation of all incumbrances, and reduces it to its simplest terms. So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run. 

I know many men who, in common things, are not to be deceived; who trust no moonshine; who count their money correctly, and know how to invest it; who are said to be prudent and knowing, who yet will stand at a desk the greater part of their lives, as cashiers in banks, and glimmer and rust and finally go out there. If they know anything, what under the sun do they do that for? Do they know what bread is? or what it is for? Do they know what life is?

Every man's position is in fact too simple to be described. I have sworn no oath. I have no designs on society, or nature, or God. I am simply what I am.

I know that I am. I know that the enterprise is worthy. I know that things work well. I have heard no bad news. As for positions, combinations, and details, what are they? In clear weather, when we look into the heavens, what do we see but the sky and the sun? If you would convince a man that he does wrong, do right. But do not care to convince him. Men will believe what they see. Let them see. - Henry David Thoreau, 1848
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Flannery O'Connor

You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.