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Chronicles from the writings of Henry David Thoreau - II

Chronicles from the writings of Henry David Thoreau

Chronicle – I: Essential needs, work and money

Chronicle II: Being truthful


Men are awakened by the inside undulations many a times. He sleeps until some factory bell sounds or by instigation from some mechanical forces or with the aspirations we left on the previous day. Darkness invites us to fall asleep during night and the morning greets us with natural gesticulations putting the man into work. Vedas say, "All intelligences awake with the morning." – p.42. Thoreau wrote about how the moral power as a driving force in keeping mans’ life lively.  It is true that the moral string determines our deliverance. In his words, “Moral reform is the effort to throw off sleep. Why is it that men give so poor an account of their day if they have not been slumbering? They are not such poor calculators. If they had not been overcome with drowsiness, they would have performed something. The millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life.”


Yet, simplicity is the mantra. In search of days’ work, man commits error upon error and complicates things. He adds more and more to his possession inviting wretchedness. Thoreau says, “Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly needed to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand;”


“Simplify” is another prescription which we need to follow next to simplicity. “Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion. Our life is like a German Confederacy, made up of petty states, with its boundary forever fluctuating, so that even a German cannot tell you how it is bounded at any moment.”


To exemplify further on simplification, he comment on various news items in a newspaper. Do any of us remember memorable news from a newspaper? “If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter -- we never need read of another. One is enough. If you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad instances and applications? – p.43”


Simple life is a truthful life. It is full of small things which a man could not have to worry about for ever. A huge investment in stock might take one through agonizing days while a few bucks kept in a vault or a pot would suffice to stop the possible soreness. Thoreau even quotes a Hindu mythological story in which an expelled king’s son brought up in a forest, living with a barbarous state of mind. When he was discovered by king’s men after twenty years, he was revealed his identity as prince. "…from the circumstances in which it is placed, mistakes its own character, until the truth is revealed to it by some holy teacher, and then it knows itself to be Brahme."


Reality check, we often, does it for ourselves with no substantial satisfaction. The iniquitous “Who am I?” never as well take us to where we wanted to go or to become. Introspective steps failed to tell us who we are. In contrast, a call by name by others stands sounding for ever. The true character and individuality spelled out by a chief gratifies us to a greater extent adding the confidence in standing the odds face to face.



“Sham and delusions are esteemed for soundest truths, while reality is fabulous. If men would steadily observe realities only, and not allow themselves to be deluded, life, to compare it with such things as we know, would be like a fairy tale and the Arabian Nights' Entertainments.” Yes, even a truthful life has its adventure in its own ways as no one knows what a man’s power is.


It is worth a life to be real. Falsehood becomes poetic with glittering ceremonies. Reality brings pride and charity. “Be it life or death, we crave only reality. If we are really dying, let us hear the rattle in our throats and feel cold in the extremities; if we are alive, let us go about our business - p.45”. Certainly, truth is a blood brother of bravery.

To be continued tomorrow.

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