The Seven Day Countdown
Thoreau’s Words, Abridged and Slightly Adjusted
“I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil–to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one…
I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of walking, that is, of taking walks-who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering: which word is beautifully derived ‘from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre,’-to the Holy Land-a saunterer, a Holy Lander. For every walk is a sort of crusade, [and] we should go forth on even the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure.
My vicinity affords many good walks, and though for so many years I have walked almost every day, and sometimes for several days together, I have not yet exhausted them. An absolutely new prospect is a great happiness, and I can still get this any afternoon. Of course, it is of no use to direct our steps to the woods if they do not carry us tither. I am alarmed when it happens, that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit. What business have I in the woods if I am thinking of something out of the woods? I am out of my senses, [but still] I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us alright. No doubt, we find it difficult to choose our direction, because it does not yet exist distinctly in our idea. The future lies that way to me, but Nature is not indifferent to the way we walk, and there is a right way. Life consists with wildness, and the most alive is the wildest.
In short, all good things are wild and free, [and although] my desire for knowledge is intermittent, my desire to bathe my head in atmospheres unknown to my feet is perennial and constant. The highest that we can attain in not Knowledge, but Sympathy with Intelligence. So we saunter toward the Holy Land, till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done, shall perchance shine into our hearts and minds, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, as warm and serene and golden as on a bank-side in autumn.”
Taken from Henry David Thoreau’s 1862 essay, “Walking”