“Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul.” – Walden
Walden by H. D. Thoreau was published in 1854. It is the author’s account of the two years he spent in a cabin on the shores of Walden Pond in Massachusetts. He explains how he built his dwelling from scratch and was entirely self-sufficient, living off Indian meal and the occasional fish. It is one of the most influential books in American Literature because of its extolling the virtues of escaping an overly materialistic existence. If consumer-culture was too much for Thoreau in the mid-nineteenth century, one wonders whether he would not have gone quite mad in this day and age. The author balances the drier accounts of the state of his finances with mesmerising descriptions of the pond in winter and the peace one can find in nature.
It proved a completely thrilling read for someone of an idealistic turn of mind like myself. The thick chunk of chocolate chip banana bread (the end bit of the cake and butteriest, I was assured) from Exeter’s Exploding Bakery that I munched on for the duration of five sentences certainly aided my meditations. I became fixated for a while with the idea of escaping to a clearing of forest where I could construct a makeshift yurt. Living simply certainly has a lot going for it, especially nowadays when it becomes a complicated endeavour going 24 hours without spending a dime.
After reading around Thoreau a little I discovered that he had in fact been squatting on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s land when he built his cabin. He was also an educated man and despite his unending praises of a solitary life, he seems to have visited the local village almost every day. Walden, like most things in life, shouldn’t be taken completely at face value. This in itself is a valuable lesson. However, the beauty of Thoreau’s descriptions and his wholehearted dedication to his endeavour make the book worth reading. The pearls of wisdom that appear on every page aren’t bad either.