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Henry David Thoreau. Virtually everyone has heard of him and his book Walden. But how many have read it? And how many have read his influential treatise Civil Disobedience?

I admit that I came upon both only recently, and I wish I had found them long ago.

Certainly, the spelling is often peculiar; the references were meant for people of his time and require research or, if one is lucky, notes and commentary by someone who already did the legwork (like Walter Harding, in my copy of The Variorum Editions); and the writing includes fanciful imagery that some might consider difficult to reconcile with the context. Nonetheless, the ideas he expresses are timeless and, dare I say it, radical. Indeed, Civil Disobedience inspired Mahatma Gandhi.

Despite having been written before the American Civil War, both Walden and Civil Disobedience are highly recommended as each contains valuable insights that apply to the world as we know it right now. Thoreau does not advocate Socialism or Communism as other writers have, but he does champion freedom and individual self-responsibility rather than the interference and control of government and politics, neither of which has advanced the welfare of the public as individuals or as a whole. Along the way, Thoreau extols the virtues and benefits of a simple lifestyle that surely makes the social climbers and the greedy cringe.

Have you read Henry David Thoreau’s work? Are you willing to explore ways of thinking and living that lie outside the box our cultures have stuffed us into?