Bowdoin Reads

Seeking the Common Good Series, Spring 2010

Literature as a Lens on the Common Good

Bill Heath '66 is inspired by...

by Henry David Thoreau

When I read your call, I knew at once that I wanted to send in something. But I'll be honest with you, I found it hard to choose just one book! There are so many I could have mentioned. But after thinking some more, I decided that it was Walden by Henry David Thoreau that has had the greatest influence on me, both personally and professionally. The selection I have chosen from Walden is one of my favorites. It is about the need for wildness, and I think it could not be more timely. It is from the "Spring " chapter: "We need the tonic of wildness--to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature....We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander."

Words that Rocked My World: Campus Installation
April 12-18
Smith Union and Hawthorne-Longfellow Library
What written texts have most influenced the way you look at the world, inspired you to action, or informed your academic or professional path? This campus installation, including favorite texts selected by students, faculty, staff and alumni, offers inspiration and fosters dialogue by highlighting the ways that literature can help shape and reflect visions of the common good.

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