Thoreau Henry 1817 - 1862 (45)

Dreams are the touchstones of our characters.



Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 - May 6, 1862) was an American writer, poet, philosopher, human rights activist, and pioneer of many modern ecological movements. He was the third child of a freelancer; he grew up in Massachusetts and studied Natural History, Mathematics and Philosophy at Harvard. Reacting to the authoritarian educational system of the time, he resigned from a teaching postion as he disagreed with the use of force on students and founded with his brother a pioneering anti-authoritarian school where he introduced nature trips as part of the educational process. The project was stopped after the unexpected death of his brother in 1841. Four years later he left the world and lived alone in a forest by Lake Walten, seeking simple life in the natural environment.

From that experience he wrote the book "Walden" with which he became famous and in which he argues that people are seduced by a delusion about what they have to do in their lives in order to live in silent despair. What are the basic human needs he wonders. Are they what the industrial society wants to impose where everyone will work harder, in an increasingly uniform way to consume more and more? He does not answer and accepts only the basic needs: food, shelter, clothing and fuel. Having acquired the basics and ignoring the useless, man can seek his spiritual exaltation. He worked in this direction, for the discovery and description of an economic system that will not be an obstacle to the spiritual development of man. Thoreau was one of the most original American writers and poets of his time, he was an enemy of any compromise and he reached philosophical anarchism. He refused to pay taxes in a city that had supported the Mexican War and was imprisoned for it.

After his release from prison, he wrote his second great book, entitled "Political Disobedience". He was an active anti-slavery activist and was associated with activist John Brown, whom he defended publicly when he was arrested following an attempt to free slaves. Thoreau would have offered much more to man's social struggles if he had not died of tuberculosis at the age of 45.