January 14, 2009

Simple Inspiration & Frugal Encouragement -1: Thoreau

Times are tough and lots of people are scared. Some of them will just sit and stay that way; however, others -- like you, dear reader -- may be seeking inspiration to commit to a simple life and a frugal future, or you're already committed and maybe needing a little encouragement along the way.

So, during 2009 here at Everyday Simplicity, you will find weekly posts dedicated solely to encouragement and inspiration.

Like this one, bringing you some words from Henry David Thoreau. Now, if you want to read the entirety of Walden, you can, for free. It's on the web (the copyright has long since vanished), and it's broken down into chapters so you can take it in spurts if you'd like.

Sure, you may have studied it in college as an example of transcendentalism - but Thoreau's writing really does read as a concrete, comforting example of choosing to live a simple life.

In Walden, he begins with the first two chapters giving you, the reader, concrete information on his daily activities, like how he built his sturdy little cabin all by himself; how he tried to get going to beat the sunrise; what he ate and how he kept his perishables safe from spoilage. And, while he is journaling his progress in making a home for himself out in the wild, he shares his thoughts with you -- and it's here that you will hopefully find encouragement.

From chapter 1:

...But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon plowed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool's life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before....

Actually, the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity day by day; he cannot afford to sustain the manliest relations to men; his labor would be depreciated in the market. He has no time to be anything but a machine. How can he remember well his ignorance- which his growth requires - who has so often to use his knowledge? We should feed and clothe him gratuitously sometimes, and recruit him with our cordials, before we judge of him. The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly....

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....

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things. ...

When we consider what, to use the words of the catechism, is the chief end of man, and what are the true necessaries and means of life, it appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode of living because they preferred it to any other. Yet they honestly think there is no choice left. But alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to give up our
prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. ....

I don't know about you, but I love this stuff. Reading these words strengthens me, reminds me about what's important and what's not.

And, silly as it may sound, it makes me feel proud of my lifestyle choice.

Every morning, I awake to hear the boom! of the cannon over at Fort Sam Houston, awakening the soldiers at exactly 5:30 a.m. Every night, at 11 p.m., I stand outside and hear taps being played. And between those two bookends of my day, I try very hard to live a rich, peaceful, simple and rewarding life without that hamster on a wheel feeling I used to experience in my Suit and Heels past.

Living a simple (frugal) life really is just a better way to live. It's work to choose this route, and work to stay on track in this American culture we have today (I was just called "crazy" by an old friend last week at lunch) but it's so, so worth it.

Go read Thoreau. I'm really hopeful that you'll share that Attaboy feeling that I found there.
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