Henry David Thoreau Does Not Respect The Hustle

The Lost Art Of Presence Discovered At Walden Pond

R. C. Abbott
4 min readMar 18, 2021
Screen shot from: It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012) by Don Hertzfeldt. A kalidescope view of a woman laying on a pillow with her eyes closed. Subtitle says: It’s too bad people don’t day how they feel until it’s already too late.”
Photo credit: CriterionBabe. It’s Such a Beautiful Day 2012, Don Hertzfeldt

I don’t think Thoreau would respect the hustle. Maybe I don’t either?

In his masterpiece Walden, Thoreau comes to a similar conclusion to Alan Watts regarding the lies we’re told about agency.

He looks at the definition of a person much the same way Watts does, only he focuses his writing on adulthood, when one works at an occupation. He notes that we approach our lives with the aim of working towards freedom — the supposed prize at the end of our toil that was falsely promised.

The twelve labors of Hercules were trifling in comparison with those which my neighbors have undertaken; for they were only twelve, and had an end; but I could never see that these men slew or captured any monster or finished any labor.

He claims that the work we fill our lives with is not what produces our freedom, but ironically, is what produces our un-freedom — our captivity. A Sisyphean trick, endlessly rolling a large stone uphill only to have it roll back down again. Alan Watts also talked about this when he described the state of perpetual preparation we encourage among youths — the idea that time well spent is only every time directed at the future, and our resulting inability to enjoy our lives.

Better had they been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf…

We set ourselves up in a cycle of never-ending work with the lie that we’ll one day be able to purchase freedom with our labour.

How many a poor immortal soul have I met well-nigh crushed and smothered under its load, creeping down the road of life, pushing before it a barn seventy-five feet by forty, its Augean stables never cleansed, and one hundred acres of land, tillage, moving, pasture, and wood-lot!