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Monday, July 09, 2018

Walden (19854) by Henry David Thoreau


Book Review
Walden (19854)
by Henry David Thoreau

   Everyone reads Walden in high school in the United States. I was no different. At least I think so- before I started the audiobook version this time through I couldn't remember anything except the things everyone knows, Thoreau, in the woods, talking about self-reliance and nature.  Listening to the Audiobook is a real experience- memorable- like listening to a Spaulding Grey monologue.  Or a Thoreau monologue.  If I had to make one dinner party point about Thoreau is that he is very detailed about the mechanics of his solitary existence, down to the cent, on multiple occasions.  There is also the more familiar transcendalism which is more or less an American rewriting of the Hindu-Buddhist-Greek wisdom that was not well diffused in Anglo-American culture in the mid 19th century, and indeed Thoreau was one of the first on this side of the Atlantic to popularize that bevy of ideas.

  Withdrawal and retreat are at the heart of any thorough understanding of Hinduism or Buddhism, and Thoreau plainly is attempting to make those same points his American context.  I finished listening while staying at the Bee Keepers cottage outside Freeport, Maine.  The Airbnb we stayed in had a hardback copy on their living room table, and Thoreau was very much on my mind as we sat on the ocean shore and tried to identify sea-birds and ocean life.  Thoreau is still relevant today, particularly for those unfamiliar with the underlying Eastern wisdom that informs his work.

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