on incessant business prattle … oh, and disfigurement

There’s divorce, there’s separation and of course there’s the good old-fashioned breakup. But Clare doesn’t just leave her husband. She flees from him. There she is, the woman lit by fireflies. And there she goes, up over the fence and into the dense green foliage where she will ripen like corn. So why does she run from the poor chump? Her husband Donald loves the workaday world, its incessant business prattle. His mind is full of money. He has “disfigured himself beyond recognition,” from the young man Clare once loved. I’d run, too, that’s for sure. But who am I compared to, say, Jesus. He’d upturn Donald’s tables and compare him to a camel unable to walk through the eye of a needle. But who is Jesus compared to Thoreau. Not the bean grower Thoreau. Not the ambler, naturalist or tax resister Thoreau. But the Thoreau that out-Jesuses Jesus. Miraculously it can be done. Here’s the proof. “This world is a place of business. What an infinite bustle! I am awaked almost every night by the panting of the locomotive. It interrupts my dreams. There is no sabbath. It would be glorious to see mankind at leisure for once. It is nothing but work, work, work. I cannot easily buy a blank-book to write thoughts in; they are commonly ruled for dollars and cents. An Irishman, seeing me making a minute in the fields, took it for granted that I was calculating my wages. If a man was tossed out of a window when an infant, and so made a cripple for life, or scared out of his wits by the Indians, it is regretted chiefly because he was thus incapacitated for — business! I think that there is nothing, not even crime, more opposed to poetry, to philosophy, ay, to life itself, than this incessant business.” If you look for this passage in Walden, you won’t find it. It’s in a fantastic little gem called “Life Without Principle,” one of the great denunciations of dreaming in copper and silver and other false denominations. So before your next business meeting, where you close the loop and take action items and align with key constituents and do things 24/7, give it a good long charitable read. Why be a Donald when you can do poetry or philosophy—or commit a wee little crime?

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3 Responses to on incessant business prattle … oh, and disfigurement

  1. Alireza Taqhdarreh says:

    Thank you my wise friend for this wonderful entry. I see Saadi, the Persian poet, in Thoreau and Thoreau in you. Thank you for reminding me once again of the world that exists beyond this world. Being aware of that particular world I realize that when I want to see you we are not continents away, but so close that I can hear your heart beat with excitement when you read “LIfe without principle.” The translation of Walden will be finished in a few months. After that I promise will translate your little gem.

  2. When you translate “LIfe Without Principle,” I’d love to get a copy. Congrates on all the wonderful progress you’ve made on Walden. Just wonderful!

  3. Alireza Taqhdarreh says:

    It would be a great honor and pleasure to send you a Persian version of that little gem, Kevin. There is a trace of you in my enthusiasm for the western literature and philosophy. I love your blog and want to use it for my own education and the students who come to me to learn English. I have also high hopes for a world in which you and I can speak together like this. Thank you for the time you spend to share your thoughts with us.

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