Walden was published 152 years ago today, on August 9, 1854. Walden is one of my favorite books. I’ve read it a few times, and skimmed through it many more. I always discover some new idea, historic curiosity, subtle witticism, or brilliant turn of phrase in Walden. I love how Henry Thoreau writes; he is one of the great American writers, and Walden is one of the great American books. Walden is appreciated around the world, and has been translated into dozens of languages. Walden had a powerful influence on Gandhi; he famously read it while imprisoned for protesting the treatment of Indians in South Africa.
Computers (even Apple computers) and the ideas in Walden would seem to be opposed. However, Thoreau’s ideas of self-reliance, freedom of expression, independence, and appreciation for Nature powerfully inspired the inventors of the personal computer.
Many of those innovators were radicals who, like Thoreau, were extremely intelligent and yet did not quite fit into mainstream American society. From MIT to Stanford, to the Amateur Computer Society and Homebrew Computer Club, Thoreau was a personal hero of the inventors of the digitally interconnected world we occupy today. And while Thoreau might not appreciate Myspace, spam, the Drudgereport, and the billions of pages of online porn, he would probably approve of the research options, freedom of expression, and platform for speech offered by the internet.
The ideas of Walden are more relevant than ever. You can read Walden free online at Project Gutenberg by clicking here.
Also check out the Thoreau blog; it’s as if Thoreau kept a blog. It’s one of my favorite sites; click here to read it.