For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

References for Theme: Thoreau

  • Thoreau, Henry
    • Life Without Principles (1863)
      (p.1) If I do this, most will commend me as an industrious and hard-working man; but if I choose to devote myself to certain labors which yield more real profit, though but little money, they may be inclined to look on me as anidler.
    • Walden (2008)
      (p.102) There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hands. I love a broad margin to my life. Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a revery, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness… I grew in those seasons like a corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over...
    • Walden (2008)
      (p.140) Meanwhile my beans, the length of whose rows, added together, was seven miles already planted, were impatient to be hoed, for the earliest had grown considerably before the latest were in the ground; indeed they were not easily to be put off. What was the meaning of this so steady and self-respecting, this small Herculean labor, I knew not. I came to love my rows, my beans, though so many more than I wanted. They attached me to the earth, and so I got strength like Antaeus. But why should I raise them? Only Heaven knows. This was my curious labor all summer,— to make this portion of the...
    • Walden (2008)
      (p.142) labour of the hands has a constant and imperishable moral, and to the scholar it yields a classic result.
    • Walden (2008)
      (p.143) When my hoe tinkled against the stones, that music echoed to the woods and the sky, and was an accompaniment to my labor which yielded an instant and immeasurable crop. It was no longer beans that I hoed, nor I that hoed beans; and I remembered with as much pity as pride, if I remembered at all, myacquaintances who had gone to the city to attend the oratorios.
    • Walden (2008)
      (p.148) I will not plant beans and corn with so much industry another summer, but such seeds, if the seed is not lost, as sincerity, truth, simplicity, faith, innocence, and the like, and see if they will not grow in this soil, even with less toil and maintenance, and sustain me. 
    • Walden (2008)
      (p.149) husbandry was once a sacred art, but it is pursued with irreverent haste and heedlessness by us, our object being to have large farms and large crops only.
    • Walden (2008)
      (p.149) husbandry was once a sacred art, but it is pursued with irreverent haste and heedlessness by us, our object being to have large farms and large crops only.
    • Walden (2008)
      (p.15) The philosopher… is not fed, sheltered, clothed, warmed, like his contemporaries. How can a man be a philosopher and not maintain his vital heat by better methods than other men? 
    • Walden (2008)
      (p.157) The fruits do not yield their true flavor to the purchaser of them, nor to him who raises them for the market… It is a vulgar error to suppose that you have tasted huckleberries who have never plucked them… The ambrosial and essential part of the fruit is lost with the bloom which is rubbed off in the market cart, and they become mere provender.
    • Walden (2008)
      (p.16) I do not speak to those who are well employed, in whatever circumstances, and they know whether they are well employed or not; – but mainly to the mass of men who are discontented, and idly complaining of the hardness of their lot or of the times, when they might improve them.
    • Walden (2008)
      (p.290) There was an artist in the city of Kouroo who was disposed to strive after perfection. One day it came into his mind to make a staff. Having considered that in an imperfect work time is an ingredient, but into a perfect work time does not enter, he said to himself, It shall be perfect in all respects, though I should do nothing else in my life. He proceeded instantly to the forest for wood, being resolved that it should not be made of unsuitable material; and as he searched for and rejected stick after stick, his friends gradually deserted him, for they grew old in...
    • Walden (2008)
      (p.47) The student who secures his coveted leisure and retirement by systematically shirking any labor necessary to man obtains but an ignoble and unprofitable leisure, defrauding himself of the experience which alone can make leisure fruitful.
    • Walden (2008)
      (p.6) I have travelled a good deal in Concord; and every where, in shops, and offices, and fields, the inhabitants have appeared to be to be doing penance in a thousand remarkable ways (...) What I have heard of Bramins sitting exposed to four fires and looking in the face of the sun; or hanging suspended… or dwelling, chained for life, at the foot of a tree; … even these forms of conscious penance are hardly more incredible and astonishing than the scenes which I daily witness.
    • Walden (2008)
      (p.64) The laborer’s day ends with the going down of the sun, and he is then free to devote himself to his chosen pursuit, independent of his labor.
    • Walden (2008)
      (p.7) But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon ploughed into the soil forcompost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an oldbook, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal.It is a fool’s life, as they will find when they get to the end of it if not befor ... Most men… 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. Their fingers, from...
    • Walden (2008)
      (p.8) The mean and sneaking lives we lead are concerned with: … another's brass, for some of their coins were made of brass; …lying, flattering, ... or dilating into an atmosphere of thin and vaporous generosity, that you may persuade your neighbor to let you make his shoes, or his hat, or his coat, or his carriage, or import hisgroceries for him; making yourselves sick, that you may lay up something against a sick day.
    • Walden (2008)
      (p.83) I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavour. 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 more glorious 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 the arts.
    • Walden (2008)
      (p.83) I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavour. 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 more glorious 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 the arts.
    • Walden (2008)
      (p.89) Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe… through church and state, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This is, and no mistake.
    • Walden (2008)
      (p.90) Be it life or death, we only crave reality. If we are really dying, let us hear the rattle in our throats and feel cold in the extremities; if we are alive, let us go about our business
    • Journal (2009)
      (p.149) (Neighbout Minott) does nothing with haste and drudgery, but as if he loved it. He makes the most of hislabour, and takes infinite satisfaction in every part of it. He is not looking forward to the sale of his crops or any pecuniary profit, but he is paid by the constant satisfaction which his labor yields him. He has not too much land to trouble him, - too much work to do, - no hired man nor boy, - but simply to amuse himself and live… He knows every pin and nail in his barn… He is never in a hurry to get his...
View all themes.
How to contribute.