Listening to Thoreau: “I am going to try to remember that the work is important for what it is, not for how the world regards it.”

From an article by David Gessner in The American Scholar on “What Thoreau can teach us about living during—and after—the pandemic”:

Fifteen years ago, when my daughter was about to turn two, my wife and I took her on a trip to Walden Pond. As we approached the place where Henry David Thoreau’s cabin once stood, with my daughter riding up on my shoulders, I said to her: “That’s where the man lived who ruined your father’s life.”

Ruined in a mostly good way, I meant. I discovered Walden when I was 16 and never quite recovered. The way my life was ruined was that I began to question the values of the system I found myself in. “The life which men praise and regard as successful is but one kind,” Thoreau wrote, and I hollered, “Amen!”. . .

I’m going to do the work I love and care about, not merely the work that the world rewards me for.  And finally, I am going to try to remember that the work is important for what it is, not for how the world regards it.

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