Author Topic: Walden discussion thread  (Read 4678 times)

grantmeaname

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Walden discussion thread
« on: December 11, 2012, 07:42:52 PM »
This thread is for discussion of Henry David Thoreau's Walden; or, Life in the Woods, the MMM Book Club's Dec 2012 and Jan 2013 book. It won the "loser's bracket" category. In addition to almost every public library in the nation, Walden can be found at Project Gutenberg.

If you're referring to a specific page in the book in a comment, try and mention your edition or give a little context or a larger section because Walden has been released many times with different formatting.

SoCalSaver

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Re: Walden discussion thread
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2012, 10:34:35 PM »
Funny, I am 70ish pages into this book! There are so many quotables in this book, I keep having to stop to write them down. How relevant Thoreau is to today. Especially the part about how we wake up in the morning and immediately want to find out what we missed while sleeping! And smartphones didn't even exist then!

kt

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Re: Walden discussion thread
« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2012, 05:32:30 AM »
i acquired a beautiful old copy of walden through readit-swapit a while ago and am slowly making my way through it.
it is certainly very thought-provoking and quotable. i am enjoying it but finding it a little hard-going.
will put some of my favourite quotes up later maybe.

totoro

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Re: Walden discussion thread
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2012, 09:47:31 AM »
I like this quote: "The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call my life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run." P.19

shadowmoss

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Re: Walden discussion thread
« Reply #4 on: December 13, 2012, 02:48:28 PM »
Most of the 'quotes' are in the first chapter.  This goes along with something I read years ago about how 'well-read folks' who quote from their vast library of read books usually only read the 1st 30 or so pages of those books.  This was speaking of a time pre-TV/internet when social standing required being well-read as the quickest measure of intellect.  Anyway, I find the first chapter worthy of re-reading every few years.  The rest only gets re-read when I specifically need real motivation.  Some of the last of it I'm not sure I've gotten completely through despite begining for the first time over 40 years ago.
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zoltani

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Re: Walden discussion thread
« Reply #5 on: December 13, 2012, 05:37:49 PM »
I like this quote: "The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call my life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run." P.19

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zoltani

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Re: Walden discussion thread
« Reply #6 on: December 13, 2012, 05:44:02 PM »
BTW, you can also read the full text, with notes, here: http://www.kenkifer.com/Thoreau/

StashinIt

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Re: Walden discussion thread
« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2012, 10:52:46 AM »
An excerpt from a comment Jacob or ERE fame made in another thread:

2) This is a Wheaton eco-scale problem. People who are spending two or more levels above are seen as unskilled and wasteful. People spending two or more levels below are seen as austere/crazy. Here's a short level scheme which is only meant to be SUGGESTIVE, not necessarily accurate. It's more reflective of my personal observations of correlations between resistance/acceptance to/of ideas and origin.
Level: IWTYTBR, Bogleheads
Level: E-R, GRS
Level: MMM
Level: ERE
Level: No known bloggers? (the $4000/year level)
Level: Suelo/Mark Boyle.

I think Thoreau fits in the "No known bloggers" level.

"So that all the pecuniary outgoes, excepting for washing and mending, which for the most part were done out of the house, and their bills have not yet been received and these are all and more than all the ways by which money necessarily goes out in this part of the world were
 

House ................................ $28.12
Farm one year ........................  14.72
Food eight months ....................   8.74
Clothing, etc., eight months .........   8.40
Oil, etc., eight months ..............   2.00
In all ............................... $61.99
I address myself now to those of my readers who hae a living to get. And to meet this I have for farm produce sold
                                        $23.44
  Earned by day-labor ..................  13.34
     In all ........................... $36.78,
which subtracted from the sum of the outgoes leaves a balance of $25.21 on the one side this being very nearly the means with which I started, and the measure of expenses to be incurred and on the other, beside the leisure and independence and health thus secured, a comfortable house for me as long as I choose to occupy it."

StashinIt

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Re: Walden discussion thread
« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2012, 12:19:24 PM »
"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."

A famous quote indeed. Maybe his most famous? But what does it mean? My interpretation:

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation"

We, collectively, tend to give up on life. Get weighed down with responsibilities (debt/lifestyle) and spend the rest of our lives trying to maintain it.

"What is called resignation is confirmed desperation"

A tricky choice of words. Does he mean 'to resign yourself to your responsibilities and wade through a life of indentured servitude' or 'to resign from the everyday grind of normal society and therefore be labeled as something other than the accepted norm'?

"From the desperate city you go into the desperate country"

This seems to imply the latter.

"and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats"

I have no idea.

"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."

This seems so off topic. My guess is that the author is saying something like 'even our past times are hallow and filled with routine, don't wait your time on meaningless things'. It makes me think of a comedian commenting on the everyday state of the news. The punchline was something like this. '<Stereotypical headline>, <stereotypical headline>, <stereotypical headline> and men played sports'.

eyePod

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Re: Walden discussion thread
« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2012, 04:43:28 PM »
I find it ironic that I'm reading Walden on my Kindle....
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shadowmoss

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Re: Walden discussion thread
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2013, 08:33:06 AM »
The kenkifer site seems to either be hacked or expired and someone with non-English symbols has taken it over.  I was just there last week and it worked. 
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sheepstache

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Re: Walden discussion thread
« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2013, 09:58:42 PM »
Thoreau seems very much of the opinion that you should work only as much as you need to, as some of the quotes others have cited suggest.  Which seems in some ways unmustachian.  Early on he refers to the foolishness of tying yourself in knots "that you may persuade your neighbor to let you make his shoes" "making yourself sick, that you may lay something up against a sick day" generally making fun of the process of acquiring money for the purpose of tucking it away in a bank.  Basically he would skip the entire acquisition phase of ER.

By the way, did other people use "basketweaving" as shorthand for a useless degree in college?  At my college there was a school of independent study and we jokingly talked about their degrees in basketweaving (although some actually had very interesting and useful courses of study) and I'm wondering if that was actually a reference to Walden and the part where the Indian reacts with shock to someone not wanting to buy his baskets, because "Do you want me to starve?"

arebelspy

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Re: Walden discussion thread
« Reply #12 on: January 22, 2013, 10:33:46 PM »
I've always heard of it as "underwater basket weaving" when referring to something useless.  Interesting thought about its origins.

Yes, Thoreau is even more extreme than ERE.

EDIT: googled it.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underwater_basket_weaving
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sheepstache

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Re: Walden discussion thread
« Reply #13 on: January 22, 2013, 10:46:39 PM »
Wikipedia knows everything!  All hail wikipedia!

Although I like to think that under the etymology: best story wins rules, my explanation would come out on top.  http://www.qwantz.com/index.php?comic=201

shadowmoss

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Re: Walden discussion thread
« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2013, 08:45:06 AM »
Or, we can just keep threads open for discussion and folks can wander in and out.  I can't read a book in a month.  Or, I may not read it the month is the The Book.
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arebelspy

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Re: Walden discussion thread
« Reply #15 on: January 23, 2013, 08:53:08 AM »
Or, we can just keep threads open for discussion and folks can wander in and out.  I can't read a book in a month.  Or, I may not read it the month is the The Book.

I don't think any of the threads have been locked.
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Rural

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Re: Walden discussion thread
« Reply #16 on: February 10, 2013, 03:30:24 PM »
The kenkifer site seems to either be hacked or expired and someone with non-English symbols has taken it over.  I was just there last week and it worked.

Ken Kifer was an avid long distance bike-rider, caver, and, at one time, English teacher. He particularly admired and studied Thoreau. He was an old friend of mine and my family's; he was killed by a drunk driver in 2003. His son had been maintaining the domain and the website. I didn't know it had gone down.

Here's an archive of Ken's notes on Walden. Definitely worth a read.

http://www.phred.org/~alex/kenkifer/www.kenkifer.com/thoreau/index.htm
« Last Edit: February 10, 2013, 03:32:55 PM by Rural »

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Re: Walden discussion thread
« Reply #17 on: January 23, 2015, 02:53:28 PM »
I'm re-reading Walden (well, listening to it on cd from the library) after almost 15 years time since my first school induced glance.

I'm loving the book, and find the attitude of Thoreau much similar to the face punches I read here. (The actor who recites the book has really good emphasis of points).

I keep thinking back to my first exposure to the book in high school, wondering how my teacher could have done a better job to get us to relate to the material. I can't imagine how one would get teens to accept his ideas as anything but crazy.

deborah

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Re: Walden discussion thread
« Reply #18 on: January 23, 2015, 03:41:06 PM »
I, too am currently reading this book. I don't like it. He appears to me to be a lazy pampered snob who could only do what he did because he was given the opportunity by friends. In fact he appears to have been supported by others for most of his adult life. I realise now that this is one of "the" books of American Literature - but since I am not from the US I have only just come across it. I freely admit that I am a luddite philistine who is totally unappreciative of some of the best literature in the world.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2015, 04:23:05 AM by deborah »