Yes, Thoreau was the original hippy. But as with his 20th century intellectual/social progeny, he was (and is) largely misunderstood. His war-cry against the opulence of American culture—"Simplify! Simplify!"—was not just a call to torch the family heirlooms, but a plea for political liberation and personal responsibility. His vision was not of anarchy, but of ideal libertarianism in which everyone is motivated to productivity by the dictates of his or her own conscience (and I'm pretty sure Thoreau would approve gender-inclusive language). While his goals may have been unobtainable given the flaws of humanity (manifold as they are), this book of essays is both intellectually stimulating and aesthetically refreshing.
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