How would you react if someone told you that your life for the next two years, two months, and two days were to be secluded in the woods outside your village in a home you must build yourself and your living made by the labor of your hands only? While the vast majority of Americans would view that as their own personal Hell, Henry David Thoreau saw it as an unconventional way to truly get in touch with one's self and with nature. Thoreau knew that nineteenth-century Americans were able to live-that is, physically being alive and making it through life. However, what he failed to see was the people around him actually living. Anyone can live and breathe and go through the motions, but someone who is truly alive is one who is genuinely seeing what is around him and experiencing every moment. Henry David Thoreau opened up his mind to living life to the fullest in order to gain personal happiness, while those around him focused more on working toward power and success in order to die satisfied. Possibly if more people would live as Thoreau did, they would come to realize that "a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone" (Thoreau. 1023).
Henry David Thoreau described life's true meaning to be reaching one's dreams and happiness through a simple life filled with small treasures. His Walden experiment revealed to him that a simple life where one lives off only the essentials of life brings a newfound clarity to the full experience of existing. The lives of nineteenth century Americans became increasingly complex so much so that a distracted, active lifestyle was assumed the norm, the routine. Americans grew more and more fixated on the fact that among the essentials of life were "talki[ing] through a telegraph, and rid[ing] thirty miles an hour" (Thoreau. 1029). Thoreau observed that the population around him had become overburdened by busyness, and that this weight and confusion tends to transform the lives of men into those of baboons.