Discussion Topic

Understanding the meaning of "live deliberately" in "Walden."

Summary:

In "Walden," "live deliberately" means to live with purpose and intention. Thoreau advocates for a life focused on essential truths, free from unnecessary distractions and materialism, allowing one to fully experience and appreciate life.

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What does "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately" mean in "Walden"?

Henry David Thoreau, a student of Ralph Waldo Emerson's, was a transcendentalist, who believed strongly in the power of nature and living simply.  He believed that our lives were too complicated, too "frettered away in detail," and that simplifying our lives would help us to understand its true meaning, and appreciate life for its value.  So, he devised a plan.  He went out to live on the property of a friend's, by himself in a shack, for two years.  He tried to produce his own crops, to live from the labor of his own hands, and to get rid of all of the complicating, busying factors that distracted him from life's true meaning.

His purpose in doing this was to be able to gain wisdom and knowledge about life.  He wanted to understand the very simplest elements of life.  "To live deliberately" means to take care and thought about everything that you do in life, and not to do anything just for the heck of it.  Everything that you do has purpose and meaning, and isn't a waste of time.  Thoreau wanted to spend his time doing only things that would enrich his life and make him a better person--no silly, time-wasting, frivolous things, but things that mattered and enriched his soul.  He wanted to "front only the essential facts of life," meaning, to excise any unnecessary stuff that clutters our lives.  Get rid of anything that isn't necessary.  And, he did that.  He lived sparesly,  in a shack, instead of a fancy house filled with unnecessary things.  He wanted to "front" or use, or rely on, only the most basic things needed for survival, and through that, learn what is at the core of living.  He would learn what the most basic facts of life and happiness were.

I hope that those thoughts helped; good luck!

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What does "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately" mean in "Walden"?

Thoreau, a Transcendentalist, decided to live by himself in the woods to get rid of what he considered the detritus of everyday life and find the essential meaning of life. In this quote, he explains his decision to live in a manner that he considers deliberate—that is, full of meaning and intention. He believes that if he lives by himself in nature, he can uncover the true essence of life and learn from it. He is afraid of dying without having uncovered the truth of life and its meaning.

Transcendentalists believed that living within society and following its dictates did not permit people to understand the meaning of life. It was only in nature and by oneself that one could uncover life's essential truths, free from the norms, pressures, and trappings of society.

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What does "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately" mean in "Walden"?

One of the major ideas that Thoreau and other Transcendentalists held was that all the things we deal with in everyday life are really not that important.  Thoreau thought, for example, that people spend too much time and energy running after material goods.  He said that our possessions owned us rather than us owning them.

What he is saying in the quote you cite is that he went to the woods to avoid this.  He did not want to spend his life chasing material goods and then find out that he had never truly pursued the real purpose of life.  He wanted, instead, to go and have time to think about what was really important.  He wanted to be able to find out who he was and he wanted to be more at one with the natural universe (another Transcendentalist idea).

So this is what he is saying in your quote -- he needs to get away from the pursuit of material goods and instead pursue spritiual and intellectual growth.

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What does "live deliberately" mean in Walden?

In Walden, Henry David Thoreau says that he moved to the woods at Walden Pond because he

wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if [he] could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when [he] came to die, discover that [he] had not lived.

In saying this, he means that he wants to live in such a way that every decision, each choice he makes, is well-informed and purposeful. He believes that most people have resigned themselves to routine, to the common values perpetuated by society. For this reason, most people buy houses that are too large, and so they must work more and longer in order to afford such a house, to heat it, to furnish it, to clean it, and so on. They buy more clothes, more stuff, and so they must work like dogs in order to afford these material objects. They believe that they have no choice but to work in this way, and so they do not live deliberately but resignedly.

Thoreau wishes to live in such a way that he does nothing because he should or he ought, according to society or anyone besides his own self. He wants to "live deep and suck out all the marrow of life," to own only as much as he must so that he has as much time as possible to pursue the activities that bring him joy rather than working just so he can own more. He will not resign himself to living without thinking, and this is what he means by living deliberately.

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