American Literature EOY Assessment

from Walden
by Henry David Thoreau

In short, I am convinced, both by faith and experience, that to
maintain one's self on this earth is not a hardship but a pastime,
if we will live simply and wisely; as the pursuits of the simpler
nations are still the sports of the more artificial. It is not
5 necessary that a man should earn his living by the sweat of his
brow, unless he sweats easier than I do.

One young man of my acquaintance, who has inherited some acres,
told me that he thought he should live as I did, if he had the
means. I would not have any one adopt my mode of living on any
10 account; for, beside that before he has fairly learned it I may have
found out another for myself, I desire that there may be as many
different persons in the world as possible; but I would have each
one be very careful to find out and pursue his own way, and not his
father's or his mother's or his neighbor's instead. The youth may
15 build or plant or sail, only let him not be hindered from doing that
which he tells me he would like to do. It is by a mathematical
point only that we are wise, as the sailor or the fugitive slave
keeps the polestar in his eye; but that is sufficient guidance for
all our life. We may not arrive at our port within a calculable
20 period, but we would preserve the true course.

Undoubtedly, in this case, what is true for one is truer still
for a thousand, as a large house is not proportionally more
expensive than a small one, since one roof may cover, one cellar
underlie, and one wall separate several apartments. But for my
25 part, I preferred the solitary dwelling. Moreover, it will commonly
be cheaper to build the whole yourself than to convince another of
the advantage of the common wall; and when you have done this, the
common partition, to be much cheaper, must be a thin one, and that
other may prove a bad neighbor, and also not keep his side in
30 repair. The only co-operation which is commonly possible is
exceedingly partial and superficial; and what little true
co-operation there is, is as if it were not, being a harmony
inaudible to men. If a man has faith, he will co-operate with equal
faith everywhere; if he has not faith, he will continue to live like
35 the rest of the world, whatever company he is joined to. To
co-operate in the highest as well as the lowest sense, means to get
our living together. I heard it proposed lately that two young men
should travel together over the world, the one without money,
earning his means as he went, before the mast and behind the plow,
40 the other carrying a bill of exchange in his pocket. It was easy to
see that they could not long be companions or co-operate, since one
would not operate at all. They would part at the first interesting
crisis in their adventures. Above all, as I have implied, the man
who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must
45 wait till that other is ready, and it may be a long time before they
get off.


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