Individual progress, purpose, and the peace of an unhurried life

"Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry."

These words from Henry David Thoreau's Walden show the writer wrestling honestly to awaken his contemporaries to a condition he felt had afflicted many. His observations certainly seem an apt commentary on today's fast-paced, never-pause-for-a-moment society. Yet obviously Thoreau wasn't writing in the 1990s but in the mid-nineteenth century, an era we tend to look back on as bucolic and simple—the kind of "good life" people nostalgically long for.

After all, Thoreau's was a time when everyday travel depended for the most part on original horsepower or even foot power. Of course, commerce by then was traveling often over rail and by sailing ship. But there were few of the common conveniences or the intricate and widely interconnected commercial activities we take for granted now as part of the daily routine. There were no telephone communications (and no constant interruptions from its ringing!), no high-speed electronic financial transactions, no computer modems, fax messages, or business conferences attended via supersonic, transcontinental aircraft. Terms like workaholic, TGIF, and burnout certainly weren't part of the common vernacular, although their meanings might have been clear enough even in 1850.

Enjoy 1 free Sentinel article or audio program each month, including content from 1898 to today.

What it takes to win
July 27, 1992

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