More from Walden - Henry David Thoreau

page 15 -- A man who has at length found something to do will not need to get a new suit to do it in; for him the old will do, that has lain dusty in the garret for an indeterminate period. Old shoes will serve a hero longer than they have served his valet — if a hero ever has a valet — bare feet are older than shoes, and he can make them do. Only they who go to soires and legislative balls must have new coats, coats to change as often as the man changes in them. But if my jacket and trousers, my hat and shoes, are fit to worship God in, they will do; will they not? Who ever saw his old clothes — his old coat, actually worn out, resolved into its primitive elements, so that it was not a deed of charity to bestow it on some poor boy, by him perchance to be bestowed on some poorer still, or shall we say richer, who could do with less? I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes. If there is not a new man, how can the new clothes be made to fit? If you have any enterprise before you, try it in your old clothes. All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, or rather something to be. Perhaps we should never procure a new suit, however ragged or dirty the old, until we have so conducted, so enterprised or sailed in some way, that we feel like new men in the old, and that to retain it would be like keeping new wine in old bottles. Our moulting season, like that of the fowls, must be a crisis in our lives. The loon retires to solitary ponds to spend it. Thus also the snake casts its slough, and the caterpillar its wormy coat, by an internal industry and expansion; for clothes are but our outmost cuticle and mortal coil. Otherwise we shall be found sailing under false colors, and be inevitably cashiered at last by our own opinion, as well as that of mankind.....

page 17 -- When I ask for a garment of a particular form, my tailoress tells me gravely, "They do not make them so now," not emphasizing the "They" at all, as if she quoted an authority as impersonal as the Fates, and I find it difficult to get made what I want, simply because she cannot believe that I mean what I say, that I am so rash. When I hear this oracular sentence, I am for a moment absorbed in thought, emphasizing to myself each word separately that I may come at the meaning of it, that I may find out by what degree of consanguinity They are related to me, and what authority they may have in an affair which affects me so nearly; and, finally, I am inclined to answer her with equal mystery, and without any more emphasis of the "they" — "It is true, they did not make them so recently, but they do now." Of what use this measuring of me if she does not measure my character, but only the breadth of my shoulders, as it were a peg to bang the coat on? We worship not the Graces, nor the Parcæ, but Fashion. She spins and weaves and cuts with full authority. The head monkey at Paris puts on a traveller's cap, and all the monkeys in America do the same. I sometimes despair of getting anything quite simple and honest done in this world by the help of men. They would have to be passed through a powerful press first, to squeeze their old notions out of them, so that they would not soon get upon their legs again... " -- Excerpt from "Walden" [Economy, Part B] by Henry David Thoreau, 1854.
"Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.

Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.

Mweh ka allay!


louis said...

I don't know whether it's because I am cheap or slovenly, but I haven't felt compelled to have a frequently refreshed wardrobe for sometime. I was not so conscious of that trait until one night at a bar almost halfway around the world from here that I used to visit with some friends who lived in that country. This bar was a very unusual place. It was just one small room at the front of a house, part livingroom, part bar and part museum. It was owned and staffed by the family (father, son and daughter) who lived there and they had a tradition of photographing every customer and preserving the photographs in well-thumbed albums going back years. On one visit as I leafed through the album of the previous year, there was my photo. And in it I was wearing the same shirt I was wearing that night! I didn't have the courage to go look up the albums of even earlier visits. I was sure I'd see me in the same shirt again. Some months later I received word that the bar had burned to the ground, along with all its albums and the memorabilia left by patrons over the years. I was saddened, but I had a sly relief that no one leafing through the albums between his drinks would would somehow notice I wore the same shirt on two, and perhaps more visits years apart.

Guanaguanare said...

Louis, you made me laugh. I also feel sad that the bar was destroyed and with it, all photographic evidence of your sartorial stasis or good sense, depending on the point of view of the beholder. I think more people should be like this. It is very liberating.

Clothes are also way, way down on my list of priorities, that's why I loved Thoreau's opinions on the subject. I think we conclude that if something is old but in good condition and wearable, it makes sense to continue wearing it instead of throwing it out and going to the expense of getting something new that is in good condition and wearable.

Some people do love their jewellery and clothes and shoes and have shown consternation when my eyes glaze over when their conversations turn to those things. I have never found them to be remotely interesting. Similarly, they might not see treasures but only junk in the beautiful seashells, pebbles or drift seeds or sea glass that I collect. As I collect them, free as they are, I remain aware that they are also worldly items and in acquiring them I am also satisfying an equally materialistic impulse. To each his own.

Louis, the people who love your heart will not think less of you because of what you wear, and they are the most important people in your life. Thanks for visiting and commenting.