Dear H. D. Thoreau,
In writing Walden, you set out,
if nothing else, to brag as lustily as a chanticleer in
the morning, if only to wake [your] neighbors up. The effects
of your writing have far outreached the call of a rooster. Your
proud and vigorous call has reverberated for over a century, and
it has awakened much more than your neighbors. The experiences
you have had imparted you with a wisdom that you were able to convey
succinctly in your work. Your words have spoken to me and have
changed my whole perspective on life.
Before reading your work, I gave too much priority
to a thousand and one trivial things, such as other peoples
perceptions of me. I also needed a personal calendar to schedule
all of my extra-curricular and sports activities, and I would
fret over each one. It was as if I were sprinting through my youth,
trying to become more and more organized, though all I was really
doing was adding useless worries to my daily life. I was attempting
to live heartily, but I was going about it in the wrong fashion.
Life was speeding by me, and I could not taste the essence of
anything I did.
Such was the state of my affairs until I read
Walden. Your book has given me some profound ideasconcepts
that, once introduced, seemed to be woven directly into the fabric
of my soul. Through the accounts of your experiences along the
shore of Walden Pond, you showed me the simplest terms of
life. I had always had a plan, and I would review that plan
repeatedly. I used to lose sleep by thinking about what I had
to do the next day and what that day might hold. You have shown
me that such pensive and counterproductive actions are wasted
energy. You have told me that the future is not reality, and that
all these times and places and occasions are now and here.
I have realized that the present moment is all that I should worry
about because any other moment could exist only in my imagination.
Living for the present has brought out the amazing details of
life that had gone unnoticed, such as the pith in a handshake,
or the beauty of a hawk in flight. My deeper appreciation of love,
nature, and genuine people and my aversion to the ridiculous hubbub
of society have stemmed from reading your book. Above all, you
have taught me the importance and beauty of simplicity.
I have begun to Simplify, simplify, simplify!
I have reduced my activities, and now I am truly absorbing the
value of each experience. I have cut away the superfluous baggage
that weighed me down, and I tend to worry less. By ridding myself
of this excess, my pace has slowed down. I now enjoy life as it
comes and no longer try to control it. Subtleties of my environment,
such as the intermingling of clouds in the sky, or the loving
eagerness on the face of a curious puppy now touch me in a way
that before been foreign to me. I have begun to stroll through
the forest of my life instead of sprinting through it. By thus
wending, I will have less risk of becoming lost in the woods or
provoking the wolves to chase me. I may take longer to get from
one point to another; nonetheless, I will arrive at my destination,
and will have had a safe and enjoyable journey.
I must thank you for showing me how to live
deep and suck out all the marrow of life. The people, places,
and events in my life, even each leaf that falls around me, have
a new and powerful meaning. I no longer feel suffocated by the
pressures of something so transparent as the air. Your work has
improved my attitude and my life profoundly.
Michael J. Shafer