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April 10, 2015

Walden and Solitude

Some of my best friends have been and are misanthropes. Those who dislike the artificial, the contrivance, the hypocrisy which so often takes the shape of the human form. Perhaps it is these traits where we find a bonding of sorts. It is nature that is my true friend; the trees, the lakes, the mountains. It is the solitude that refreshes the soul. Thoreau celebrated solitude, although in truth, he had many visitors to that small cabin on Walden Pond.   

‘I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will. Solitude is not measured by the miles of space that intervene between a man and his fellows. The really diligent student in one of the crowded hives of Cambridge College is as solitary as a dervish in the desert. The farmer can work alone in the field or the woods all day, hoeing or chopping, and not feel lonesome, because he is employed; but when he comes home at night he cannot sit down in a room alone, at the mercy of his thoughts, but must be where he can "see the folks," and recreate, and as he thinks remunerate himself for his day's solitude; and hence he wonders how the student can sit alone in the house all night and most of the day without ennui and "the blues"; but he does not realize that the student, though in the house, is still at work in his field, and chopping in his woods, as the farmer in his, and in turn seeks the same recreation and society that the latter does, though it may be a more condensed form of it.’   Walden by Henry Thoreau

These days, the site of his cabin is marked by a pile of stones left by visitors; those making a pilgrimage to a place in literary history. I remember eating lunch on the far side of the pond and a passing train inviting itself to a short passing while I munched on my sandwich. Thoreau was not a misanthrope however, he simply sought simplicity and some solitude for the course of some months. As I grow older, I find myself delighting in a quiet afternoons and evenings away by myself, keeping to myself, being self-contained. I don’t know if the psychologists would find this healthy, but what is healthy anyway? Who can say with any thread of certainty?