“I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion”
– Henry David Thoreau, Walden
In 1845, the American essayist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau ran an experiment. It was chronicled in his book “Walden”. He wanted to break away from what he characterized as “the mass of men lead(ing) lives of quiet desperation” – the proverbial “rat race” of the times. The experiment involved leaving society and living on his own in the wild on the shores of Massachusetts’s Walden Pond for two years, two months and two days. He built his own house from scratch for a sum of $28.12, shared his lodgings with wasps and marveled at melting ice. He wanted to experience a life of simplicity and serenity. He went off the grid. His was a journey of subsistence and discovery.
In many ways, his thoughts and ideas in Walden and in his other works reflect the essence of an Agile mindset:
- Modeling a different way of living
- Adapting to change
- Looking at everything as if for the first time
- Not accepting the monotony of the status quo
- Appreciating the simplest things
In other ways, he’s given me pause for thought on what most Agile practitioners would consider a necessary condition for Agile – adapting to the complexity of the world we live in.
Nature is complex – one need only look at the uniqueness of every single snowflake to see that. And yet, Thoreau sought refuge in nature because of her beautiful simplicity. A case of contradiction or perspective?
In society, has mankind wrapped simplicity with complexity?
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from “Walden” that appeal to my Agile sensibilities:
“Our life is frittered away by detail… Simplify, simplify.”
“Not till we are lost… do we begin to find ourselves.”
“Things do not change; we change”
Life can be simple and serene. Find your Walden Pond.