rudely shaken
...Thoreau's Journal: 23-Oct-1855

Now is the time for chestnuts. A stone cast against the trees shakes them down in showers upon one's head and shoulders. But I cannot excuse myself for using the stone. It is not innocent, it is not just, so to maltreat the tree that feeds us. I am not disturbed by considering that if I thus shorten its life I shall not enjoy its fruit so long, but am prompted to a more innocent course by motives purely of humanity. I sympathize with the tree, yet I heaved a big stone against the trunks like a robber,—not too good to commit murder. I trust that I shall never do it again. These gifts should be accepted, not merely with gentleness, but with a certain humble gratitude. The tree whose fruit we would obtain should not be too rudely shaken even. It is not a time of distress, when a little haste and violence even might be pardoned. It is worse than boorish, it is criminal, to inflict an unnecessary injury on the tree that feeds or shadows us. Old trees are our parents, and our parents’ parents, perchance. If you would learn the secrets of Nature, you must practice more humanity than others. The thought that I was robbing myself by injuring the tree did not occur to me, but I was affected as if I had cast a rock at a sentient being,—with a duller sense than my own, it is true, but yet a distant relation. Behold a man cutting down a tree to come at the fruit! What is the moral of such an act?


Anonymous said...

Funny how he's most likely talking about the American Chestnut. He's discussing the harm of throwing a rock at a single tree without any knowledge of the virtual extinction of the entire species only a a half-century or so away.


michael jameson said...

the extinction of a species! and how many species become extinct every year?, does man not understand that he to is a species?, if it does not effect him directly he cares little! we are supposed to learn from nature not destroy it!, how sad we are at times. michael jamaeon oldantiqueguy@hotmail.com

martin stepek said...

Just found your site. What a wonderful idea, and Thoreau's wisdom and compassion ooze from his words as if they were written today. My favourite American of all time.

Loved today's blog - the concept of non-harm, even to plants is so challenging for us a species, and asks us to renew our whole relationship to nature.

Many thanks for the great work - Martin Stepek, Scotland

Anonymous said...

Here in Israel, I worked one week during the olive harvest for my friend's father. We picked by hand, but the larger operations have this machine which shakes the tree, and it also appeared to me as offensive.