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. To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?
Henry David Thoreau
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Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end.
Death is beautiful when seen to be a law, and not an accident. It is as common as life.
Man and his affairs, church and state and school, trade and commerce, and manufactures and agriculture even politics, the most alarming of them all—I am pleased to see how little space they occupy in the landscape.
The head monkey at Paris puts on a traveller's cap, and all the monkeys in America do the same.
Is is not enough to be busy… The question is: what are we busy about?
Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them.
It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far moreglorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.
We live a short period of time in this world, but we live it according to the laws of eternal life.
We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers.
We should come home from far, from adventures, and perils, and discoveries every day, with new experience and character.
We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the first person that is speaking. I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well.
If there is not a new man, how can the new clothes be made to fit? If you have any enterprise before you, try it in your old clothes.
If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible.
This was sheer idleness to my fellow-townsmen, no doubt; but if the birds and flowers had tried me by their standard, I should not have been found wanting. A man must find his occasions in himself, it is true. The natural day is very calm, and will hardly reprove his indolence.