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  1. #1521

    I've been reading this again recently, or to be more accurate I've been listening to the audiobook whilst making blackberry wine. Man, I love audiobooks and the freedom they afford by removing the actual book from your hands.

    The book is written by the poet and transcendental philosopher Henry David Thoreau. Don't be intimidated by the word transcendental, it's just a fancy word for a particular form of individualism. It's the belief that that all life, including mankind, shares a common divinity; that deep down all life is good but that society and institutions and laws and systems corrupt us. It's the faith that people are best when following their true nature, when self-reliant and independent. It's a belief not based on theory or intellectualism or mere thought alone, but actual first hand experience.

    But enough about transcendentalism; the book is a modern classic and has served as an inspiration to millions of people the world over including the likes of Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Leo Tolstoy. Indeed it is considered such a seminal work of literature that is taught in American schools - not that it seems to have enlightened that particular people - not when taken collectively anyway, but then you can only lead a horse to water, can't you.

    I remember when I first read the book many years ago, it was like finding a kindred spirit. I found someone whose every sentence I not only agreed with, but someone who had put down in writing thoughts and feelings I'd long propagated myself. It was like finding a long lost brother and a friend. So what's the book about? It's an account of the years he spent living the simple life in a tiny wooden shack he built next to a pond in a woods in Concord, Massachusetts, removed from society and culture, and the thoughts, feelings and insights that manifested under those circumstances. It's a book about transcendental philosophy, some people call it a spiritual handbook because transcendentalism was influenced in part by the Bhagavad Gita (a Hindu sacred text), but the book is more an examination of the human condition. It's about humanity at its marrow. It's a celebration of what is natural, even when what is natural is difficult, and the rejection of artificiality. He wrote another equally famous book called Civil Disobedience - which is also very good, albeit much more political. This book is about human beings. It's about you and I and everyone and it's rather brilliant.

    As always, some choice quotes from its pages:

    “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”

    “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”

    “The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”

    “O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment."

    “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”

    “I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

    “All good things are wild and free.”

    “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.”

    “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.”

    “I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”

    “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”

    “Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”

    “However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are.
    It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is."

    “Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.”
    Very, very true. An Enlightened Master could have written that.

    “Things do not change; we change.”

    “The true price of anything you do is the amount of time you exchange for it.”

    “If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.”

    “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”

    “Any fool can make a rule
    And any fool will mind it.”

    “We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us even in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavour. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.” Beautiful.

    “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”

    “Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.”

    “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”

    “What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?”

    “It is never too late to give up your prejudices”

    “It is not worth the while to let our imperfections disturb us always.”

    “...for my greatest skill has been to want but little.”

    “I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.”

    “Say what you have to say, not what you ought. Any truth is better than make-believe.”

    “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”

    “Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.”

    “I can alter my life by altering my attitude. He who would have nothing to do with thorns must never attempt to gather flowers.”

    “Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.” Love that. Takes a wise man to understand hardship is an indispensable component of happiness.

    “A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down and commence living on its hint.
    When I read an indifferent book, it seems the best thing I can do, but the inspiring volume hardly leaves me leisure to finish its latter pages. It is slipping out of my fingers while I read…What I began by reading I must finish by acting.”

    “The universe is wider than our views of it.”

    “The path of least resistance leads to crooked rivers and crooked men.”

    “Amid a world of noisy, shallow actors it is noble to stand aside and say, 'I will simply be.”

    “Men have become the tools of their tools.”

    “I would not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well.”

    “We are constantly invited to be what we are.”

    “To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity and trust.”

    “I have no doubt that it is part of the destiny of the human race in it's gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals.”

    “What sort of philosophers are we, who know absolutely nothing of the origin and destiny of cats?”

    “When we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence, that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of the reality.”

    “If a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man.”

    “What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.”

    “Renew thyself completely each day.”

    “Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Turn the old; return to them. Things do not change; we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts. God will see that you do not want society.”

    “It is not that we love to be alone, but that we love to soar, and when we do soar, the company grows thinner and thinner until there is none at all. …We are not the less to aim at the summits though the multitude does not ascend them.”

    “The heart is forever inexperienced.”

    “Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it.”

    “This curious world we inhabit is more wonderful than convenient; more beautiful than it is useful; it is more to be admired and enjoyed than used.”

    “All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or back gammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters is not staked. I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority. Its obli*gation, therefore, never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority.”

    “To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake.”

    “If you want to be happy, be!”

    “While civilization has been improving our houses, it has not equally improved the men who are to inhabit them”

    “If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer; but if he spends his whole day as a spectulator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is esteemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.”

    “The greatest art is to shape the quality of the day. ”

    “A gun will give you the body, not the bird”

    “As long as possible live free and uncommitted. It makes but little difference whether you are committed to a farm or the county jail.”

    “Goodness is the only investment that never fails.”

    “A man may be very industrious, and yet not spend his time well. There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of life getting his living.”

    “Read not the Times, read the Eternities.”

    “Most of the luxuries, and many of the so called comforts of life, are not only indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have ever lived a more simple and meagre life than the poor.”

    “Don't be afraid that your life will end, be afraid that it will never begin!”

    “Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it right will rather preserve its life than destroy it. ”

    “The civilized man is a more experienced and wiser savage.”

    “There is an incessant influx of novelty into the world, and yet we tolerate incredible dullness.”

    “I love Nature partly because she is not man, but a retreat from him. None of his institutions control or pervade her. There a different kind of right prevails. In her midst I can be glad with an entire gladness. If this world were all man, I could not stretch myself, I should lose all hope. He is constraint, she is freedom to me. He makes me wish for another world. She makes me content with this.”

    “To a philosopher all news is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea.”

    “In my opinion, the sun was made to light worthier toil than this.”

    “Man is the artificer of his own happiness.”

    “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”

    “If we respected only what is inevitable and has a right to be, music and poetry would resound along the streets.”

    “No man ever stood the lower in my estimation for having a patch in his clothes: yet I am sure that there is greater anxiety,
    commonly, to have fashionable, or at least clean and unpatched clothes, than to have a sound conscience.”

    “Talk of mysteries! — Think of our life in nature, — daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it, — rocks, trees, wind
    on our cheeks! The solid earth! The actual world! The common sense! Contact! Contact! Who are we? Where are we?”

    “Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.”

    “Not all who wander are lost.”

    "Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so. Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something."

    “Be yourself, not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be.”

    “So long as a man is faithful to himself, everything is in his favor, government, society, the very sun, moon, and stars.”
    Last edited by Zen Monkey; 10-10-2018 at 11:16 AM.

  2. #1522
    I finished Kill Switch, but it felt like the characters were on the back foot the whole time. So much so, that I thought it was going to spill over to the next book!

    Started The Gone World, which is about someone going back in time to stop a cataclysmic event.

    "Shannon Moss is part of a clandestine division within the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. In western Pennsylvania, 1997, she is assigned to solve the murder of a Navy SEAL's family--and to locate his vanished teenage daughter. Though she can't share the information with conventional law enforcement, Moss discovers that the missing SEAL was an astronaut aboard the spaceship U.S.S. Libra--a ship assumed lost to the currents of Deep Time. Moss knows first-hand the mental trauma of time-travel and believes the SEAL's experience with the future has triggered this violence.

    Determined to find the missing girl and driven by a troubling connection from her own past, Moss travels ahead in time to explore possible versions of the future, seeking evidence to crack the present-day case. To her horror, the future reveals that it's not only the fate of a family that hinges on her work, for what she witnesses rising over time's horizon and hurtling toward the present is the Terminus: the terrifying and cataclysmic end of humanity itself.

    Luminous and unsettling, The Gone World bristles with world-shattering ideas yet remains at its heart an intensely human story."


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