Thoreau's Dictum: Simplify, Simplify... ?

     Henry David Thoreau, the philosopher among other things, believed that "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."  He lived part of his life tucked away in a tiny cabin in the woods, living the lifestyle of a hermit in order to "simplify, simplify."  He spent many hours studying nature, co-existing with nature and writing in his solitary atmosphere.

     Some critiqued him, saying his "content and ecstasy in living was, we may say, like a plant that he had watered and tended with womanish solicitude; for there is apt to be something unmanly, something almost dastardly, in a life that does not move with dash and freedom, and that fears the bracing contact of the world.  In one word, Thoreau was a skulker.  He did not wish virtue to go out of him among his fellow-men, but slunk into a corner to hoard it for himself.  He left all for the sake of certain virtuous self-indulgences."

     Both are right.  I can hardly imagine what "luxuries" were in the day of Thoreau unless one was wealthy, but today, I would consider them to be electricity, gas, modern heating and cooling, getting all of our foods from a store instead of our backyard, modern transportation, gadgets, computers, phones... etcetera.

     When should we simplify?  Should we live as Thoreau did, almost isolating ourselves from humanity?  I cannot agree with his way of life, idyllic though it may appear.  His critics were right.  He lived so that his virtues would never leave him by way of contamination of the world's possessions.   Isolation/seclusion is not the key; balance is.

     When our computer ceases to be a tool and has become an idol, we've lost balance.  When our cell phone, blackberry or Ipad, has become more important than the person in the same room as us, we've lost balance.  When the television becomes our favorite form of entertainment, we've lost balance.  When we cease to walk, because we can ride, we've lost balance.  When we choose to speak using acronyms instead of speaking clearly, and with conviction, we've lost balance.  When we opt to eat chemicals because they taste better than whole foods, we've lost balance.

     "Let your moderation be known unto all men." Philippians 4:5

"If you don't read good books, you will read bad ones.  If you don't go on thinking rationally, you will think irrationally."  Sandra Boswell

     In all things, moderation is required.  If we don't consciously choose to watch an educational program, we'll watch something less likely to elevate our intelligence.  If we don't likewise choose to eat whole foods, we'll be more likely to pick up fast food.  If we don't put down our phones, we'll unconsciously ignore the one right next to us.  If we let our computers flood us with entertainment, we won't see it as the tool it is intended to be.

     Simplify, simplify?  I say "cultivate, cultivate."  We are constantly learning by every day life.  It's what you do, and what you put into your mind and if front of your eyes that will make you who you are.  If you don't consciously guide yourself, you will drift with the world as your current, making you and molding you to its own ideals.  

     Simplicity can be beautiful.  But living away from one's fellow man was never God's intention.  We need one another.  And in this sometimes crazy life, we need balance in all aspects.  Choose it... or lose it.

{Direct quotes taken from Wikipedia}
h. rae


  1. Very interesting... I always thought of simplifying as just getting rid of clutter and unwanted things. I could not imagine being "shut away"...
    I agree with your saying...cultivate, cultivate...

  2. I love your blog!!! It feels soothing :)

  3. Love your take on this topic! Truly, exercising moderation and making conscious decisons about our actions will help us cultivate the right kind of life.

  4. Kim- He led a quiet life, but one thing he had going for himself- he loved nature. He did have a lot of wisdom, but seemingly used it unwisely.

    Leah- Thank you so much for stopping by and following! I'm so glad you did!

    Tracey- So true! Thanks for your valuable input!

  5. I loved this post and your thoughts and may I say, "Right On!" or "Amen". :)


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