Rarely has a book inspired so many to do so much in so such seemingly small ways. Walden and Civil Disobedience is a life manual for the intellectually rigorous. You can picture Gandhi reading this work as he languished in a South African prison, or Nelson Mandela doing the same, also immurated in a South African hellhole. Thoreau takes a break from the hustle and bustle of the big town and retires to Walden Pond, claiming it to be the environment his soul needs for an honest revival. And what a revival it is too. We hear gems on everything, from music to language to civilization to hunting to engineering. Thoreau’s musings are the ramblings of a very wise man, though the language can be a bit circumlocutory at times.
Civil Disobedience quietly brings up the spectre of rebellion against an unjust government. After all, if the government is unjust, it is not a crime to rise up against it. But how exactly is one to rebel against the machinery of the state? Remember that the vast majority of men lead lives of quiet desperation. Is this tacit desperation to be counted upon to explode in a violent frenzy as it did in 1776. Thoreau thinks not, and prefers to be a disobedient citizen until the day the ideal state is born, the one that considers him an equal. Alas, Thoreau was a few millennia ahead of his time, as that time is not arriving soon, for the vast majority of nations.
Prognosis: meandering at time, despite that, an absolute must-read.