Monday, March 11, 2013

“Intellectual luxuries”

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On this date in 1856, Henry David Thoreau recorded an interesting thought in his journal:

“I fear the dissipation that traveling, going into society, even the best, the enjoyment of intellectual luxuries, imply. If Paris is much in your mind, if it is more and more to you, Concord is less and less, and yet it would be a wretched bargain to accept the proudest Paris in exchange for my native village. At best, Paris could only be a school in which to learn to live here, a stepping-stone to Concord, as school in which to fit for this university. I wish so to live ever as to derive my satisfactions and inspirations from the commonest events, every-day phenomena, so that my senses hourly perceive, my daily walk, the conversation of my neighbors, may inspire me, and I may dream of no heaven but that which lies about me. A man may acquire a taste for wine or brandy, and so lose his love for water, but should we not pity him?”
—From the Journal of Henry David Thoreau, March 11, 1856.

  What a sad, limited outlook! Of course, one can travel and appreciate other cities, and people, and ways of life, without losing love for one’s native place. I love traveling as much as possible, seeing new places and perspectives. But it doesn’t change the way I feel about my own town, and yard, and home, and my friends and activities in my little corner of the world.

Does Thoreau’s entry reek of sour grapes?

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