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Many people remember the book Walden as the story of a hermit living in a hut who survived on twigs and berries in the Concord, Massachusetts woods. Its author, Henry David Thoreau, was no hermit, but a survivalist and philosopher who personified the best of American values of self-reliance, simplicity, love of the land, individualism and defense of personal liberty against governmental overreaching.
He lived simply on Walden Pond from 1845-1847 without a GPS, iPod, iPhone, laptop or wi-fi.
[ ] Thoreau’s principles are an overarching everyday strategy, holding that a life worth living depends upon remaining free and independent, living as autonomous men and women alert and able to confront, ignore, or go around obstacles in our way. [ ]
[ ] Today few of us could replicate Thoreau’s life in a 10 x 15 foot cabin a mile from his closest neighbor. What we can do whether we live in New York City, Los Angeles, or in between is to think of Walden as a state of mind.
Walden’s principles and maxims are as relevant in 2012 as in 1853. In fact, times were remarkably similar to our world today. Global competition was common. Better quality German pencils nearly drove the Thoreau family pencil business under. The Panic of 1837 was as severe as our financial downturn today. A real estate bubble burst due to sub-prime lending, and real estate prices plummeted. Families lost jobs, spending power, and risked their savings as half the banks in America folded within weeks. The federal government, whose policies touched off the contagion, was growing in power and would continue piling on public debt. Even then, the U.S. government depended upon foreign countries to finance its operations.
As the nation entered the industrial revolution, Walden was Thoreau’s challenge to a society forgetting cultural values and practices of the first Americans such as self- reliance, thrift, and the importance of the family. [ ]