Living a Life of No Regrets: Jeffrey S. Cramer on the life and legacy of Henry David Thoreau
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In this episode of the Wake Up, Human podcast, I talk with author and editor Jeffrey S. Cramer, Curator of Collections at the Thoreau Institute Library of the Walden Woods Project. Jeffrey is perhaps the foremost living authority on the life and works of one of my earliest and greatest heroes, Henry David Thoreau.
My conversation with Jeffrey weaves through discussions on Thoreau the writer, naturalist, and social reformer. We’ll touch on themes of his two most famous works, Walden and Civil Disobedience, and discuss what those writings have to offer us for today’s activism and social justice work, and for navigating the craziness of the modern world. We explore how small, personal acts of kindness can be a powerful means of social reform. And Jeffrey and I will each share a couple Thoreau geek stories from our own lives along the way.
If you’re a fan of Thoreau, you’ll likely learn some things you never knew before. If you’re not familiar with him, you’ll get a primer on topics as diverse as transcendentalism, the power of the moral compass for making decisions in our lives, and the art of living deliberately in a distracted world. We’ll even randomly discuss what eating strawberries can teach us about waking up to our place in society and the world. Join me for this rich and fascinating conversation, in this episode of the Wake Up, Human podcast.
Episode at a glance: topics we’ll explore
- Who was Henry David Thoreau, and why are people interested in keeping his work and his legacy alive?
- Why Thoreau’s Walden is not really a book about a man living in the woods, and why his essay Civil Disobedience has nothing to do with civility.
- What is the one shared message that all the world’s sacred texts boil down to, according to Thoreau?
- What is the absolute litmus test for deciding what is right and wrong, concerning our actions in the world, according to him?
- We discuss the difficulty of “doing what’s right” in a divisive world. How do we stand up for what we believe is right, against someone with an opposing view who is equally convinced they are right?
- Jeffrey shares his key takeaway from Walden, which he calls “the Thoreauvian question.”
- What is Jeffrey’s favorite his favorite quotation by Thoreau, and why? (And why he wishes every school in the country would have this emblazoned over the front door so every student could read it every day.)
Links and resources mentioned in the episode:
- Website of Jeffrey S. Cramer
- The Walden Woods Project
- Walden, edited by Jeffrey Cramer
- Civil Disobedience in pdf
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