Henry David Thoreau quotes

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“ The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. ”

― Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

Henry David Thoreau (born David Henry Thoreau) was an American author, naturalist, transcendentalist, tax resister, development critic, philosopher, and abolitionist who is best known for Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay, Civil Disobedience, an argument for individual resistance to civil government in moral opposition to an unjust state.

He went on to say that even our games and sports are games of desperation, with no play, no fun in them. Then he adds “But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.”

So why do we live in quiet desperation? Is it inevitable? Or is there something we could do differently that would change things? Is our desperation really in our own hands? I believe that if we want to change desperation into joy the first thing we have to do is to take responsibility for it. We can’t change anything as long as we keep giving our power away by blaming others. We habitually blame the government, our employer, our spouse; anyone but ourselves; and in so doing we lock ourselves into our perpetual desperation.

Now i'm not saying that it's our fault. I'm not blaming anyone. There is a difference between fault and responsibility. Responsibility is the ability to respond and in order to respond we must be able to correctly identify the root cause. I have written a whole article about this HERE.

So what is the root cause of our desperation, that if we took responsibility for changing, would enable us to turn our desperation into joy? What causes us to struggle our whole lives, make some small progress, get kicked back, struggle again, get kicked back again, on and on and on until we die? Did I hear you say “that’s just the way life is”? Don’t you want to know WHY it's the way life is? Surely if we knew why we could change it. Aren't you just a little bit curious? Well I believe we were born into a game we did not devise where the rules are stacked against us. We can never win that game. The longer we try the longer we will remain trapped into our lives of quiet desperation. But we can refuse to go on playing that game and devise a fairer one. I have written an article about that too - A Game We Did Not Devise.

What is your opinion on this Henry David Thoreau quotation? Please do share your thoughts.

Henry David Thoreau Bundle:
Walden, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, and Walking
by Henry David Thoreau

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