“To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society.
If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown!
To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eyes of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child.
The lover of nature is he who whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. His intercourse with heaven and earth becomes part of his daily food. In the presence of nature a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows. Nature says—he is my creature, and maugre all his impertinent griefs, he shall be glad with me. Not the sun or the summer alone, but every hour and season yields its tribute of delight; for every hour and change corresponds to and authorizes a different state of the mind, from breathless noon to grimmest midnight. Nature is a setting that fits equally well a comic or a mourning piece. In good health, the air is a cordial of incredible virtue. Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear. In the woods, too, a man casts off his years as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life is always a child. In the woods in perpetual youth. Within these plantation of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a preferential festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel nothing can befall me in life—no disgrace, no calamity (leaving me my eyes), which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground—my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space—all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances, master or servant, is then a trifle and a disturbance. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in the streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.*
To the body and mind which have been cramped by noxious work or company, nature is medicinal and restores their tone. In [its] eternal calm, he finds himself. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.
The beauty of nature re-forms itself in the mind, and not for barren contemplation, but for new creation.
Everything looks permanent until its secret is known.
Men cease to interest us when we find their limitations.
I am only an experimenter. Do not set the least value on what I do, or the least discredit on what I do not do, as if I pretended to settle any thing as true or false. I unsettle all things, No facts are to me sacred; none are profane. I simply experiment, an endless seeker with no Past at my back.
Whilst we converse with what is above us, we do not grow old, but grow young.
People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.
Life is a series of surprises. We do not guess today the mood, the pleasure, the power of tomorrow when we are building up our being.
The one thing which we seek with insatiable desire is to forget ourselves, to be surprised out of our propriety, to lose our sempiternal memory and to do something without knowing how or why; in short, to draw a new circle.
So much of our time is preparation, so much is routine, and so much retrospect, that the pith of each man’s genius contracts itself to a very few hours.
Intellectual tasting of life will not supersede muscular activity. If a man should consider the nicety of the passage of a piece of bread down his throat, he would starve.
Do not craze yourself with thinking, but go about your business anywhere. Life is not intellectual or critical, but sturdy. Its chief good is for well-mixed people who can enjoy what they find, without question.
To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.
Let us be poised, and wise, and our own, today.
[The] only ballast I know is a respect of the present hour.
If we will take the good we find, asking no questions, we shall have heaping measures. The great gifts are not got by analysis. Everything good is on the highway.
Life is a series of surprises, and would not be worth taking or keeping if it were not.
The results of life are uncalculated and uncalcuable. The years teach much which the days never know.
I know better than to claim any completeness for my picture. I am a fragment, and this is a fragment of me.”
*the greatest paragraph ever written