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May 29, 2013 / A Mindful Traveler

Leaving Walden

Walden Pond

Walden Pond

“I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one. It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves.”

– Henry David Thoreau, conclusion to Walden

I taught my last lesson of the year today.  My students and I have another two weeks of classes, but these will be given over first to student-led seminars,   then papers, and finally exams.  Fittingly, the lesson dealt with Walden and its conclusion as a window into Thoreau’s thought.

This spawned an impassioned and well-argued debate in one of my 10th grade classes as to whether Thoreau’s discursive writing style reflects self-confidence or flaunting his knowledge in an attempt to hide his insecurities.  In the other class, discussion revolved around his hope that his readers would “accept such portions [of Walden] as apply to them.”  We came to a consensus that Thoreau wasn’t judgmental but instead was urging people to make use of wisdom they find to be of benefit to them, a characteristic I noted he shared with Jerry Garcia and the Dalai Lama.

I’m eager to see what my students, who have taught me far more about Walden (and much else) than I’ve taught them, will write in the next fortnight.  In most cases,  this is the last time I’ll be teaching them.  They have several more lives to live.  I feel fortunate to have shared this one with them.  As I told them today, what I care most about is that they take Thoreau’s closing advice:

“Only that day dawns to which we are awake.  There is more day to dawn.  The sun is but a morning star.”

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