Dialogue between Henry David Thoreau, Socrates and Don Juan*

They, being commonly out of doors, heard whatever was in the wind.

Don Juan: You always felled compelled to explain your acts, as if you were the only man on earth who’s wrong.

Henry David Thoreau: I never dreamed of any enor- mity greater than I have committed. I never knew, and never shall know, a worse man than myself.

Socrates: But it is right, my friends, to bear in mind that if the soul is immortal, we need to care for it, not only for the sake of this periodic time which belongs to what we call life, but also for the sake of all time, and now it will be clear that if we are going to neglect it, we shall be running a great risk.

Don Juan paused in search of a word, he seemed to be dumbfounded. Then he looked at them and began to laugh uproariously.

Socrates: But if you are convinced of this, Don Juan, look at the matter in this way, and see if you agree. You doubt whether what is called learning can be recollection?

Henry David Thoreau: Fishermen, hunters, woodchop- pers, and others, spending their lives in the fields and woods; in a peculiar sense a part of Nature themselves, are often in a more favorable mood for observing her, than philosophers or poets even, who approach her with expectation.

Don Juan said that they were going to camp there, that it was a very safe place because it was too shallow to be a den for lions, too open to be a nest for rats, and to windy for insects. He laughed and said that it was an ideal place for men, since no other living creatures could stand it .

Henry David Thoreau: The farmer is endeavoring to solve the problem at a livelihood by a formula more complicated than the problem itself.

Socrates: Then, let us see whether what you say is true from another point of view, for very likely you may be right, you affirm virtue to be the power of attaining goods?

Don Juan: Well, let’s say that I know all kinds of things because I don’t have a personal history, and because I don’t feel more important than anything else, and be- cause my death is sitting with me right here.

Henry David Thoreau: I see youngmen, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools, for these are more easi- ly acquired than got rid of. Men labor under a mistake.

Socrates: We are agreed then, that in this way the living have been born from the death no less than the dead have been ‘born’ from the living?

Henry David Thoreau walked and sat down in the shade – An old man who used to frequent this pond nearly sixty years ago, when it was dark with surround- ing forests, tells me that in those days he sometimes saw it all alive with ducks and other water fowl, and that there were many eagles about it.

Don Juan: You think your life is going to last forever?

Henry David Thoreau: He is blessed who is assured that the animal dying out in him day by day, and the divine being established.

Socrates: What is it? Has the ship come from Delos, at the arrival of which I am to die?

Don Juan: Stick close to me. This is an unknown region to you and there is no need to take chances. You are go- ing in search for power and everything you do counts.

Henry David Thoreau: What recommends commerce to me is its enterprise and bravery. It does not clasp its hands and pray to Jupiter.

Don Juan: I don’t care how you feel. In order to be a hunter you must disrupt the routines of your life. It takes time. You could begin by not eating lunch every single day at twelve o’clock.

Socrates: No doubt. But what is this subject about which, being knowledgeable himself, the sophist makes his student knowledgeable as well?

Don Juan said that both of them were being careless with power by acting morosely and that they had to put an end to it or power would turn against them and they would never leave those desolate hills alive.

Socrates: For in my stupidity I believed the truth had to be told about anything that was given a eulogy, and that by selecting the most beautiful parts of the truth one was to arrange them in the seemliest manner possible.

The reader will perceive that I am treating the subject rather from an economic than a dietetic point of view.

Socrates: And what do you think of this Sophists, who are the only professors? Do they seem to you to be teachers of virtue?

Henry David Thoreau: I believe that every man who has ever been earnest to preserve his high or poetic faculties in the best condition has been particularly inclined to abstain from animal food, and from much food of any kind.

Socrates: This, then, Henry David, is why the true lov- ers of learning are moderate and manly; it is not for the reasons that most men suppose.

Don Juan: What would be a resolution that is real then?

Henry David Thoreau: You need not rest your reputa- tion on the dinners you give.

Don Juan: I was thinking that you haven’t changed at all in the time you’ve been trying to learn about plants.

Socrates: Do you believe there is really war among the gods, and terrible enmities, and battles, and other things of the sort our poets tell?

Henry David Thoreau: They are sound sleepers, I assure you.

Don Juan: I know, I know. To achieve the mood of a warrior is not a simple matter. It is a revolution.

Socrates: Then consider. If I escape without the state’s consent shall I be abiding by my just agreements or not?

Henry David Thoreau: I consider that I enhanced the value of the land by squatting on it.

Don Juan: Someday you might need to catch a moun- tain lion. They have special powers. They are terribly smart and the only way to catch them is by fooling them.


* Dialoguecomposedbyquotes(withminor changes) formthefollowingbooks:

Castaneda, Carlos. Journey to Ixtlan. The Lesson of Don Juan, Washington Square Press,

New York, 1991 (1972).

Plato. The Dialogues of Plato, Bantam Clas- sics, New York, 1986.

Thoreau. Henry David. Walden, Beacon Press, Boston, 2004 (1854).

Frida Robles

2014 Clermont, NY


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