That old musty cheese

henry-david-thoreau

Over the past few months, I’ve found great insights in the writings of Thoreau. I pick up an old copy of Walden when I can, and after a few paragraphs I’ve usually found something worth reflecting upon. And so it was today, when I found this pearl buried in Chapter 5:

Society is commonly too cheap. We meet at very short intervals, not having had time to acquire any new value for each other. We meet at meals three times a day, and give each other a new taste of that old musty cheese that we are. We have had to agree on a certain set of rules, called etiquette and politeness, to make this frequent meeting tolerable and that we need not come to open war.

For some reason, the concept of people as “old musty cheese” stuck with me. Thoreau died when he was just forty-four, and nobody would really consider that to be old. But the idea is that we are what we are, and there isn’t much that we can do about it. But still we insist on meeting with each other, anyway.

Some people thrive on the company of others, but Thoreau relished being by himself. And he left lots of great writings for us to consider, too. It might even be said that his solitude has paid off for anyone who reads and appreciates his work. Not a bad legacy to leave behind, really.

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