Henry David Thoreau

The battle was raging. The two races were pitted against each other in a

fight to the death. The ground was already littered with the wounded and

dying. One pair was locked together as they tumbled over and over. Both were

relentlessly hanging on until one or the other would die. As Henry David

Thoreau watched this battle between Red and Black Ants, he thought about life.

Henry David Thoreau grew up in Concord, Massachusetts in the mid 1800's. When

he was about sixteen he went to Harvard for his college education. Despite

his Harvard degree, he was considered an outcast because he didn't do anything

"useful" with his life. He wasn't interested in making a living in society.

He focused on discovering the "facts of life". Thoreau moved into the woods

called Walden not far from his home. He felt that being alone with nature

would enable him to think and write more clearly. One of the thoughts that

came from his "higher thinking" was that "Our life is frittered away by

detail". This quotation is important because it applies to all people, in

Thoreau's time and in modern times.

Thoreau is saying that all people, rich and poor, young and old, fritter

their lives away with detail, instead of being concerned with the big picture.

The important thing to Thoreau was having time to think about how man fits in

with nature and what his place on earth is. Thoreau believed that man only

needed the basics of food, clothing and shelter. Everything else was a luxury

that took time to obtain. Thoreau thought that time spent getting anymore

than the basics was not time well spent.

Thoreau couldn't understand why people in his time would waste energy on

things that could become very stressful. For example, the railroads and

telegraphs were crisscrossing Concord. They brought commerce, but they also

brought noise and pollution, and cut up the landscape. There were more goods

for people to buy, but they were unnecessary frills in Thoreau's mind.

Thoreau wished for a simple life, unfettered by material possessions.

Thoreau's quotation is applicable in today's life more than ever. The

appearance of railroads and commerce in Thoreau's time was the start of the

modern day "rat race". Thoreau wanted people in his time to realize how much

time they were wasting with busywork and trifles. Today, people are even

worse in that respect than before. With all today's products, from computers

and cell phones to cereal boxes, there are so many more choices and things to

deal with. People waste time choosing what clothes to wear with which shoes

and so on. Thoreau on the other hand, wouldn't bother worrying about things

as unimportant as that. Today, we know Thoreau was right, yet few people

actually do forget about the little details.

"Our life is frittered away by detail" is a quotation for all times. Thoreau

was able to block out the trivia of everyday life and explore a broad range of

profound thoughts. He moved to Walden to concentrate on only the basics.

People would criticize him for his "outrageous" ideas, but his ideas actually

weren't that "outrageous". Thoreau's ideas won't fade away with time. They

will get stronger with time as people yearn for a more simple life and some

freedom from the stress and hassles of having to make too many choices and

understand complicated technologies.