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Life without Principle


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Henry David Thoreau (1817—1862) American essayist and poet

 

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Essay by Thoreau, posthumously published in the Atlantic Monthly (1863).

Modern American culture is criticized as being excessively preoccupied with acquisition, at the expense of an awareness of values. “The aim of the laborer should be, not to get his living … but to perform well a certain work …. An efficient and valuable man does what he can, whether the community pay him for it or not ….” Most men dwell thoughtlessly on the surface of existence, obsessed by the need for busyness, small gossip, and conformance to convention. They lack independence and self-expression, as appears in such phenomena as the gold rush to California: “The philosophy and poetry and religion of such a mankind are not worth the dust of a puffball.”

All of us have desecrated ourselves:the remedy will be by wariness and devotion to reconsecrate ourselves, and make once more a fane of the mind …. Even the facts of science may dust the mind by their dryness, unless they are … rendered fertile by the dews of fresh and living truth.

the remedy will be by wariness and devotion to reconsecrate ourselves, and make once more a fane of the mind …. Even the facts of science may dust the mind by their dryness, unless they are … rendered fertile by the dews of fresh and living truth.

Subjects: Literature.


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