where i lived, and what i lived for by h.d. thoreau

thoreau-where-i-lived-and-what-i-lived-for-penguin-great-ideasIt’s so funny how so many small things can change drastically over time.  One of the very first books I had to read in my Critical Thinking & Writing Class during freshman year of university was Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.  Back then, I literally snoozed through each page, silently raging about why on earth anyone would leave a good life to live in a freaking pond.  Upon leaving class I felt resurrected.

Fast forward a decade and them some: here I am profoundly contemplating on the purpose of life and nodding at excerpts from Thoreau’s Where I Lived, and What I Lived For.  One of the many delightful pursuits in which Thoreau was able to indulge (also my biggest envy) was reading.  He writes grand claims for the benefits of reading, which he compares to “raising the veil from the statue of divinity”.  But ultimately, he went to the woods because he “wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life… and not, when [he] came to die, discover that [he] had not lived”.

Where I Lived, and What I Lived For is only a chapter out of Walden but Penguin’s Great Ideas series published it as a mini-book.  It’s not as overwhelming as trying to read his entire experience in the woods; it’s just the right amount of philosophical thoughts and writing to provoke our own thoughts about our lives.  During one of my trips, I talked about this book with a friend and she told me that all that searching for life’s truest meaning is not deep at all.  It is what it is.  I labeled her philosophy as “no philosophy”, and it does work too.  The simplest understanding is perhaps the truest form of anything.

Traveling to a new place can bring a profound perspective about life.  But sometimes, something as simple as picking up a book can re-calibrate our understanding & outlook in life.  I promise the book isn’t a dread and is definitely a must-read, at least once!

dee’s recommendation: 4.5/5