Thursday, September 15, 2011

Where I Lived, and What I Lived For

I'm sitting in the color-coordinated lobby of a Marriott in Alexandria, Virginia, drinking a pink zinfandel (c’mon, the happy hour choices were merlot, chardonnay, zinfandel) and reading Thoreau's “Walden” on the Kindle that I have downloaded onto my iPad.

What would Thoreau think?

The lobby is over air-conditioned and buzzing with chatter. ESPN plays on the TV and the man across from me has settled in to watch it with his allotment of two Bud Lights and some soft tacos.

"I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well," Thoreau writes in his introduction. Soon after, he writes, "Moreover, I, on my side, require of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men's lives; some such account as he would send to his kindred from a distant land; for if he has lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me."

It's a perfect message to be dropped into my lap, and it makes me realize that Thoreau would probably have blogged from his cabin at Walden Pond. Emerson would have set him up with wireless access, and Lydian Emerson would have sent him a bright email every couple of days just to check in and to see if he had any laundry that needed to be done.

Even more, Thoreau would have encouraged me to blog from China.

In fact, the truth is that on the warm day in September that I plopped myself on a fake leather couch and couldn't get the wireless going on my iPad and so was forced to look at the books I had already downloaded was a blessing in disguise – or a message from the universe.

A simple and sincere account of my own life. I can do that, and he would have done that too. But Thoreau, I think, would not have joined Facebook (friend Emerson? What about that pest Bronson Alcott?) or tweeted his momentary musings.

“I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”

Try saying that in a tweet.


  1. Thoreau's tweet: Sucking marrow out of life, driving it into corner, getting meanness out of it, living Spartan-like. Follow me @waldenpond.