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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom: Henry David Thoreau: Our Truest Life Is When We Are In Our Dreams Awake

Thought for the Day: Although author, philosopher, and naturalist Henry David Thoreau lived from 1817 -1862, his work was clearly ahead of his times and bears relevance to our times. When I lived in the Boston area, I visited Walden Pond and the homes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Louisa May Alcott, Thoreau's contemporaries, many times. Many people did not understand or agree with his then revolutionary ideas and saw him as an idle dreamer; however, today his ideas feel contemporary.

       Thoreau's views on nature have led many to call him the "father of environmentalism." Walden; or Life in the Woods encouraged readers to live close to nature. Long before Timothy Ferriss wrote the best selling book, The Four Hour Work Week, Thoreau chose to work as little as possible. He believed that working less would lead to a happier existence. By time living in solitude and close to nature, he was able to devote his time to enjoying philosophy, nature and writing. 
     Thoreau's concepts on "Civil Disobedience," published in 1849, were also controversial in his times. However, they have influenced our modern world in significant ways.  India's Mahatma Gandhi, who was known to have been influenced by Thoreau's writing, used hunger strikes, one form of civil disobedience to gain independence for India from Great Britain. Thoreau was also a staunch abolitionist who opposed slavery long before the Civil War. It is fitting that American civil rights movement activist Martin Luther King Jr  also adopted Thoreau's concepts on civil disobedience. 
       Since Thoreau felt, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation," he became a nonconformist and chose to live his dreams. He was a trailblazer. His waking dreams can and do continue to inspire us today. Psychologically, it sometimes helps to take a step back and see how great thinkers are not swayed by societal pressures to follow norms. We must all be true to our inner compass and pursue what we feel is right. We all can learn from his bold determination by learning to follow our waking dreams.

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