Walking: Annotated Edition
In his classic essay on walking, Henry David Thoreau, the famous naturalist and philosopher, extols the virtues of immersing ourselves daily in nature. Thoreau treats the act of walking as a vehicle that transports us to the sacred space that is nature. The wildness of nature becomes a retreat from the noise of contemporary society and civilization—a place to rest our thoughts and regain balance between these two worlds. This edition contains nearly 40 new historical and biographical footnotes.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) was an American naturalist, philosopher, and a leading transcendentalist. His writings have influenced environmentalism and civil disobedience.
- Print Length: 48 pages
- Weight: 3.7 ounces
- Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.1 inches
When I’m lost in the mire of work and life, I like to escape from my desk and responsibilities for a walk amid the woods or down an empty country gravel lane. These walks help me to re-center my thoughts and priorities, for during the hustle of the day these often become focused on things that are of no importance. The walks also—and perhaps more importantly—force me to interact with the world as it really is: muddy, dusty, smelly, cold, sweaty, wild, and—often—absolutely perfect.
If you take away all of our societal obligations and duties, all we have left to do is walk around and be amazed at what we see. Get rid of the car. Get rid of the bicycle. Throw out the TV and the computer. Walk to Goodwill and give them those dusty board games that were played once and already are missing a piece. Downsize the city mansion for a well-worn, one-room cabin. Get rid of these things and we need less money to live, and thus we can work less and live more. Now what to do with all of this newfound free time? Walk! Strip us of all of our possessions and what are we? We are simple human beings equipped with legs and arms for walking and scrambling over the globe. And we have been blessed with eyes, ears, a nose, a tongue, and touch through which we can experience this wild world of ours.
And out of this wild world was born Thoreau—a wild man that civilization could not box. Pay a poll tax? He preferred imprisonment. The latest fashion? How about a decades-old suit? A beard to attract the ladies? One word: neckbeard.
So what can we learn from this wildly independent person? We can learn to see the world as it is. We can learn to enjoy the world as it is. And we can learn to embrace the world as it is.
“Walking” is a book that should be reread each year and before any journey. I know that I benefit from this exercise.