“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Thoreau wrote these words more than 150 years ago after spending more than two years in a small cabin he built by Walden Pond.
What can a simple yet extraordinarily deep man from more than a century ago teach us about our times and us today? Much, it seems to me, after spending time walking in those same woods by Walden last week.
The 1840s was a time of tremendous technological, industrial and communications change (the telegraph was just invented and trains were beginning to spread across the land), immigration was emerging as a major issue (i.e., the Irish were coming here in huge numbers because of the Potato famine) and race concerns were a huge discussion (slavery), libertarianism was rising as a movement, great economic disturbances and income inequality was present, and nature and the environment were on many people’s minds.