Thoreau Pondering Quotes

I began looking at thoughtful quotes from a multitude of great thinkers of the past, and as I was looking at Thoreau’s quotes, they kept pulling me in and in—he has some amazing things to say that can impact your life. Take time to ponder these quotes that make you think:

“Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn you attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” 

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“Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it.”

“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aid, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn.”

“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.”

“If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.”

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.”

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“The universe is wider than our views of it.”

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

“It is what a man thinks of himself that really determines his fate.”

“Things do not change; we change.”

“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find eternity in each moment.”

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“Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.”

“Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed…Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”

“There will never be a reality free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly.”

“What is called genius is the abundance of life and health.”

“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”

“In the long run, men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, they had better aim at something high.”

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“Nay, be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.”

“The Artist is he who detects and applies the law from observation of the works of genius, whether of man or Nature. The artisan is he who merely applies the rules which others have detected.”

“To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea.”

“Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.” 

“It is better to have your head in the clouds, and know where you are…than to breathe the clearer atmosphere below them, and think you’re in paradise.” 

“A man cannot be said to succeed in this life who does not satisfy one friend.”

“The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.”

“Money is not required to buy one necessity of the soul.”

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“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.”

“The perception of beauty is a moral test.”

“It is never too late to give up our prejudices.”

“Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed by them.”

“If you can speak what you will never hear, if you can write what you will never read, you have done rare things.”

“The rarest quality in an epitaph is truth.”

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.”

“If you would convince a man that he does wrong, do right. Men will believe what they see.”

“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”

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“Books can only reveal us to ourselves, and as often as they do us this service we lay them aside.”

“There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living.”

“Instead of noblemen, let us have noble villages of men.”

“That government is best which governs least.”

“If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.”

“So thoroughly and sincerely are we compelled to live, reverencing our life, and denying the possibility of change. This is the only way, we say; but there are as many ways as there can be drawn radii from one centre. All change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every instant.”

“The smallest seed of faith is better than the largest fruit of happiness.”

“That man is rich whose pleasures are the cheapest.”

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”None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.”

“To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”

“If a man constantly aspires is he not elevated?”

“The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or, perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length, the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them.”

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”

“To be awake is to be alive.”

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

“Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.”

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“In human intercourse the tragedy begins, not when there is misunderstanding about words, but when silence is not understood.”

“There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.”

“A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.”

“Live the Life you’ve dreamed”

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“When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest.”

“I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born.”

“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.”

“Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.”

“Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.”

“Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.”

“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”

“Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends…Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.”

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Painting by John Latermilch of Thoreau

Other good Thoreau Quotes:

“How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living?”

“Every generation laughs at old fashions, but follows religiously the new.”

“In wilderness is the preservation of the world.”

“It is the greatest of all advantages to enjoy no advantages at all.”

“The language of excitement is at best picturesque merely. You must be calm before you can utter oracles.”

“Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.”

“‘Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?

“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.”

“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.”

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”

“Men have become the tools of their tools.”

“Men are born to succeed, not to fail.”

“Til healthy to be sick sometimes.”

“Generally speaking, a howling wilderness does not howl: it is the imagination of the traveler that does the howling.”

 

I’m sure I have left out some great ones. Which is your favorite? Please share any thoughtful quotes in the comments.

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