The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation (2023)

Written byRichard21. May 2019 15. July 2022Published inPhilosophytags:Books,quotes

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation (1)

Henry David Thoreau's quote "The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation" was an observation that most people live empty lives caused by unfulfilling work, lack of leisure, and false values; Money, possessions and awards. Thoreau claimed that the value we place on property, money, and status is wrong. Quiet, desperate lives are routine and unemotional, and living with false values ​​leads to unhappiness.

My life of quiet desperation

I have an unsatisfactory job; Days are filled with nerve-wracking meetings, unnecessary emails and pointless PowerPoint slides. According to David Graeber (author ofBullshit-Jobs) a large proportion of today's jobs are completely meaningless. A YouGov poll found that just 50 per cent of people in the UK are sure their work makes a meaningful contribution to the world and 37 per cent are fairly certain it doesn't.

"Capitalism creates unnecessary jobs so the wheels just keep turning."

– David Graves

Spending 5 days out of 7 (~70% of my life) in a pointless and uninteresting job certainly puts me in the quiet desperation category.

Die Joe-Rogan-Show

I came across Thoreau's quote while watching the Joe Rogan show. Rogan says it's one of his favorite quotes and has some inspirational thoughts worth hearing:

Excerpts from podcasts

JR: It's one of my favorite quotes ever. I was that guy when you were in a world where you can't wait to just walk away.

JR: You have to take the dangerous route and most people want to take the safe route and end up living a life of quiet desperation and it's hell... you end up selling insurance or some other shit you don't care about.

(Video) Mass of Men Lead Lives of Quiet Desperation (Motivation)

AJ: How do people get stuck there?
JR: Bills and obligations. You have an apartment to pay for, you have a car to lease, a wife to support, you have your this and your that... your options are severely limited when you take responsibility.

AJ: But can people just change that?
JR: Yes you can, but you have to plan it. You have to set aside enough money to get yourself a window and you have to have a plan and you have to work every hour outside of your crappy job planning your escape like your life depends on it.

Escape from a life of quiet desperation

Thoreau believed that we need few comforts in life, and he put this into practice by moving to Walden Pond. While life by a pond is extreme, I (like many others) have too many things and life is too easy (quiet). Being comfortable with a simple life sounds nice, but I've often thought it leads to a boring existence. This view is shared as the underlying thesis byThe Comfort Crisis.

[The Comfort Crisisby Michael Easter]

Ailments are both physical and emotional. It is hunger, cold, pain, exhaustion, stress and other trying sensations and emotions. Our comfort instinct led us to find food. Build and seek shelter. To flee from predators. To avoid overly risky decisions. To do anything that would help us live on and spread our DNA...

So it's really no surprise that today we should still default to what is most comfortable. Except that our original amenities were negligible and short-lived at best. In an uncomfortable world, the constant search for a little comfort helped us stay alive. Our common problem today is that our environment has changed, but our wiring has not. And that wiring runs deep.

Advertisers tell us that it's more money and more things that make us happy, but I believe it's the opposite, just like Thoreau. You appreciate more in life when you have less.

To escape my life of quiet desperation, you have to throw your caution overboard. Nobody wants to takethe deathbed testand regret, but the reality is we all do it unless we are willing to take risks.

And by "risks" it's obviously not life-threatening, but by modern standards anything that takes us out of our comfort zone is considered risky. I need to escape my safe, comfortable job and do something completely different. Otherwise my quiet life remains unresolved.

I love a good quote and Henry David Thoreau's "The Most of Men Lead Lives in Quiet Desperation" is one of my favorites. It encourages self-reflection. Are you living a life of quiet desperation and what are you going to do about it?

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(Video) Mass of men live lives of quite desperation. Ft Joe rogan and garyvee

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  1. how is everything going are you still in your job Or did you escape?


    1. Hallo Kevin,

      (Video) Joe Rogan | Living a Life of Quiet Desperation

      The plan was to escape June this year, but given the current coronavirus situation, the stock market crash and general economic uncertainty, I'm holding off. I might well be pushed when mass layoffs start! Most of my income comes from a rental property and when no one is around to rent it out it becomes a problem! ..hopefully it won't be that bad.



  2. I like Bill Withers' interpretation of this quote. ("The Story of Bill Withers"). He continues from "quiet desperation" with, "I was wondering what would happen if my desperation were LOUDDER!" (my capital letters). I take it as a way to follow my dreams.


  3. Pingback:Thoreau's economy

  4. 41 years ago our English teacher came up with this quote and asked us what the meaning could be... I always liked that quote and I still remember it today


  5. The quote is great because it succinctly articulates the struggle and pain of life. It's great for the same reason Van Gough's Starry Night is great. There are genius songwriters who have expressed this as well, but one of the best is U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For". This anxiety situation is complicated by the promises that pursuing life's big issues is key; Finding true love is one of the biggest issues. Being the center of attention with money is another, in whatever form the induced imagination conjures up; in "Rheinstein-Cowboy" in a nutshell. There are people on all these different ladders who seem to have found or claim to have a sense of values, and usually money is a big ingredient. The two scenarios are usually, like U2, not finding the dream or knowing what your own dream should be; or suddenly finding a level of achievement that feeds that sense of worth and meaning and usually some kind of power ~~ and then usually becoming a kind of narcissistic sensory addict. So the question kind of ends up with whether the goal is to have that sense of self-fulfilled joy, in whatever form?
    It seems that human existence is plagued by drive-impulse mechanisms. If the human race were just a collection of carbon-based life forms, we wouldn't have a world with so many problems. Everything would be managed more coherently, at least by the supreme life form. But as it is, there really are paranormal levels of existence. It is the height of hubris for science to dismiss all metaphysical activity for all of human history. Through the years, conscience, creation, and history have pointed to God. Then the central point of the story is the life, death and resurrection of Christ. The level of activity in the anti-God story points to God. The level of fraudulent or filthy religious systems does not prove that God Christ does not exist; it proves that there is a kernel of truth, and the imposters try to overload the field with lures and repulsive forms. The purpose of Christ is to lead us into a mystical (spiritual) union with himself... and lead us out of this swampy morass that would rule us inside and out. Union with Christ by asking Him to come within us is the path to peace and real meaning. Eternal meaning.

    (Video) Most Men Lead Lives Of Quiet Desperation - Dan Bilzerian


    1. I really appreciate your attitude towards life shown by this comment! Thank you very much! It will preach!


    2. Rogen hasn't the faintest idea what Thoreau is talking about and is putting it backwards exactly. And his purpose and service to humanity is on the level of Howard Stern, not spiritual writers like Emerson and Thoreau. Yes, Rogen is just a narcissist and boring to any serious thinker, and these programs are pseudo-intellectual masturbation a few rungs lower than pseudo-intellectual masturbator Dick Cavett or Tom Snyder and their ridiculous interviews with bogus and ignorant LSD burnouts like Yoko Ono and John lennon Pervasive false Christianity is at least far less lurid sex carnival than beatnik, hippie and anarcho-punk nihilistic destruction. I'm sorry if this offends, but Rogen and Co. are not afraid to call Christians idiots. Presumably he knows so little that he has no idea Thoreau was a pantheist. Personally I think Thoreau is misguided, just like the other transcendentalists. It can be seen as the forerunner of counterculture idiocy. You shall recognize them by their fruit. Praise the Lord Jesus. And forgive them because they don't know what they are doing.


  6. I have listened to this lecture and Thoreau's quote is mentioned at the very end. I was in a dead end for 28 years and I knew every day that art was what I was born to do. I was lucky and a passive-aggressive attorney I was stuck with actually got me fired. It took nine months, but it happened. I believe God put this guy into my life and it just so happened to coincide with selling my house and moving in with a friend of mine to save money. And I had discovered an artist on the internet during my lunch break, a guy named Richard Schmid ( whose work was so inspiring that I spent $500 to buy all the materials he suggested and after the Work one more day I sat on my patio and drew a small painting and his techniques and teachings worked! Even so, my release was months away from that moment, but when it did, I decided that I would not try to get another job as a legal secretary. Actually, I knew that mentally I wouldn't make it. I was done with it and couldn't muster another ounce of strength to do it. Long story short, I started painting and a door opened, some paintings were sold and I've made a living from art for the last fourteen years. It's meager, but it's enough for me. Since then, I've been "on an endless vacation," although I maintain a strong work ethic and thank God for every successful painting sale.


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Who said the mass of men live lives of quiet desperation? ›

One day, I came across the lines of Transcendentalist philosopher Henry David Thoreau. “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation,” he wrote in Walden in 1854. Thoreau's writing—a reflection on human nature's tendency to reside in a “quiet desperation”—helped me to pinpoint my own misgivings about my professional path.

What is meant by quiet desperation? ›

Quiet desperation is acceptance of–and surrendering to–circumstances. Quietly desperate lives are frustrated, passive, and apathetic. They're unfulfilled and unrealized.

How many people live lives of quiet desperation? ›

Quote by Henry David Thoreau: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation...”

Do most people really live lives of quiet desperation? ›

Research in empirical psychology shows that, contrary to what Thoreau claims, most people in the world are, in fact, generally happy. Even people in difficult conditions are usually happy. Thoreau's claim is simply false: the mass of people in the world do not lead a life of quiet desperation but, rather, of happiness.

Why most men lead lives of quiet desperation? ›

The above quote comes from the classic book “Walden” written by Henry David Thoreau and speaks to anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit. “The mass of mean lead lives of quiet desperation…” Most go through their lives wanting more but accepting less. Accepting a life that is mediocre and lacking passion.

Why do men live in quiet desperation? ›

Henry David Thoreau's quote “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” was an observation that most people live an empty life caused by unfulfilling work, lack of leisure time and misplaced values; money, possessions and accolades. Thoreau claimed the value we attach to possessions, money and status is wrong.

How do you overcome quiet desperation? ›

Your success begins today so let's get started!
  1. Seek Purpose over Happiness. You see, happiness is an emotion (like all emotions) that is fleeting. ...
  2. Guard Your Mind Against Negativity. ...
  3. Conquer Fear to Overcome Quiet Desperation. ...
  4. To Succeed, You Must Take Risks. ...
  5. Avoid Stasis at All Cost.
Nov 30, 2021

What is the root of desperation? ›

The origin of the word traces back to the Latin desperare, "to lose all hope," which is formed from the prefix de-, "without," added to sperare, "hope."

How do you deal with quiet desperation? ›

How to Overcome a Life of Quiet Desperation
  1. Stop Putting Yourself Down. We can be our own worst enemy. ...
  2. Don't Allow Fear to Destroy Your Dreams. Are you running scared? ...
  3. Invest in Yourself. Why do so many of us quit pursuing your dreams when we know that we are capable of more?
Jul 7, 2020

What is Thoreau's most famous quote? ›

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.

What is tapestry of quiet desperation? ›

Orpheus make to Brock being a "tapestry of quiet desperation" are references to the Henry David Thoreau book Walden in which Thoreau claims that most men in urban contemporary society "lead lives of quiet desperation".

Why a quiet life is better? ›

Albert Einstein once stated: “A quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest.” Leading a quiet life means slowing down, being mindful of your surroundings, and being grateful for everything you have.

Was Thoreau an anarchist? ›

Thoreau is sometimes referred to as an anarchist. In "Civil Disobedience", Thoreau wrote: "I heartily accept the motto,—'That government is best which governs least;' and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically.

What is Thoreau's thoughts on railroads? ›

He argued that when one walks by foot they have the freedom to forge their own journey, whereas when one rides the railroad they are subject to the predetermined path of the rails. This scene from American Autumns by J.F.

How do I not come as desperate to men? ›

Avoid clingy behavior.
  1. Do not text more than twice in a row or within 10 minutes of last texting him. Try and only text meaningful messages or text when you have a legitimate reason.
  2. Do not get nervous or upset if s/he doesn't contact you right away.
  3. Do not follow your partner/crush around.
  4. Do not be over accommodating.

Why do men need quiet time? ›

Men are evolutionarily wired to need solitude. It is where we find peace, quiet, solace, and a connection to the soul. Men and women have adapted differently to some degree throughout the ages, to require different ways of coming back home to themselves, from the stresses of the world.

When a man does not keep pace with his companions? ›

Henry David Thoreau - Floating Quote - If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears. In stock.

What are the causes of desperation? ›

We can become desperate when things seem out of our control — our finances, our health, our relationships.
Over time, other mental health experts expounded upon this to include:
  • shock or disbelief.
  • denial.
  • bargaining.
  • guilt.
  • anger.
  • depression.
  • acceptance/hope.
Apr 21, 2020

How do men react to silence? ›

Men respond to silence and distance emotionally. When they don't hear from you for a while, their male instinct pushes them to find you and know how you feel. They want to see if you are fine, if you miss them or whether you value their existence. Strangely enough, it doesn't matter if you like him to not.

What are the signs of desperation? ›

Are you showing these 5 signs of desperation?
  • Constant availability. ...
  • Compromising your integrity and principles. ...
  • Being too agreeable – wanting to please. ...
  • A need for compliments and reassurance. ...
  • Getting too close for comfort.
Mar 19, 2012

How many people are quiet quitting? ›

26% of workers admit they do the bare minimum or less

Twenty-one percent of workers are 'quiet quitting,' choosing to put in only the bare minimum and just doing what they are paid to do. Additionally, 5% say they actually do less than what's required of them.

Is quiet quitting the same as the great resignation? ›

The term quiet quitting came about as a rationale for the Great Resignation, or Americans' sustained willingness to quit their jobs in search of better ones during the pandemic. Work did not have to take priority in their lives, and if it did, they could quit.

What is quiet quitting for mental health? ›

“Quiet quitting" means workers are now prepared to reject the notion that work is their life and that they should work beyond their job descriptions to succeed. This means they will be less willing to take on extra work, volunteer for committees, or answer work communication beyond the workday hours.

What does the Bible say about desperation? ›

His heart pounded, his lips quivered, decay crept into his bones, and his legs trembled (Habakkuk 3:16). He was confused, angry, terrified, and desperate for relief. He cried, “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?” (Habakkuk 1:2).

Is desperation a feeling or emotion? ›

Distress and desperation are both emotions that someone can have who is seriously in trouble. They are both characterized by being overwhelmed, not knowing what to do, and if possible, finding others to help you.

What word could replace desperate? ›

Some common synonyms of desperate are despairing, despondent, and hopeless. While all these words mean "having lost all or nearly all hope," desperate implies despair that prompts reckless action or violence in the face of defeat or frustration.

What is desperation in psychology? ›

Desperation is a negative emotion that tends to accompany situations of stress, anxiety, or situations involving a lack of control that ultimately motivate one's behaviors (Baker 2002; de Haes et al.

What is desperation in a relationship? ›

Being desperate for love often means making it a priority, even over self care and time with friends. This can be dangerous because it often means you are filling a void with dating and relationships.

What are the effects of desperation? ›

It can make you feel tired, hopeless, and disoriented. Desperation can, metaphorically, squeeze the creative juice right out of you. In 2013, Harvard researchers did a study on how financial stress affects decision-making.

What is Thoreau's main message? ›

Thoreau's central message in Walden is to live simply, independently, and wisely.

What was Thoreau's main point? ›

Thoreau argued that the government must end its unjust actions to earn the right to collect taxes from its citizens. As long as the government commits unjust actions, he continued, conscientious individuals must choose whether to pay their taxes or to refuse to pay them and defy the government.

What is Thoreau's main point in conclusion? ›

Summary: Conclusion

Thoreau notes that doctors often recommend a change of scenery for the sick, but he slyly mocks this view, saying that the “universe is wider than our views of it.” He argues that it is perhaps a change of soul, rather than a change of landscape, that is needed.

When did Thoreau write Walden? ›

He began writing Walden in 1846 as a lecture in response to the questions of townspeople who were curious about what he was doing out at the pond, but his notes soon grew into his second book. Thoreau stayed in the house at Walden Pond for two years, from July 1845 to September 1847.

What is special about quiet people? ›

Quiet people are more likely to be introverts than extroverts and tend to be more creative and sensitive than the average person. They also tend to be private people who don't like being in large crowds or socializing much at all unless it's necessary for work or school.

Why staying quiet is the secret to success? ›

Staying silent helps give you a reason to speak, to analyze your situations and yourself, to be aware of how you are going to react. Many people do things without thinking because they're not used to the absence of words.

What does the Bible say about being a quiet person? ›

Scripture tells us that silence can help us avoid sinning (Proverbs 10:19), gain respect (Proverbs 11:12), and is deemed wise and intelligent (Proverbs 17:28). In other words, you may be blessed by holding your tongue. Ultimately, refraining from speaking in certain situations means we are practicing self-control.

Did Henry David Thoreau believe in slavery? ›

While Thoreau opposed slavery, his principal response was to resist it passively, rather than to crusade for its abolition. In contrast, William Lloyd Garrison (1805–1879) was moved to devote all of his energy and resources to a tireless crusade for abolition.

What did Emerson say at Thoreau's funeral? ›

Emerson particularly respected Thoreau as a man of action and valued his useful skills and knowledge. He wrote in his eulogy of Thoreau: “He grew to be revered and admired by his townsmen, who had at first known him only as an oddity.

Did Thoreau believe in religion? ›

Yet, despite his apostasy, his often withering criticism of the churches of his day, and the habitual distrust he showed to institutions in general, there is no question that Thoreau was a deeply religious or, in the preferred parlance of today, spiritual man - so long as we understand these terms in the personal, ...

What does Thoreau say about slavery in? ›

In Slavery in Massachusetts Thoreau pleaded, Will mankind never learn that policy is not morality—that it never secures any moral right, but considers merely what is expedient . . . .

What is the main theme of Thoreau's Civil Disobedience? ›

In Civil Disobedience, Thoreau's basic premise is that a higher law than civil law demands the obedience of the individual. Human law and government are subordinate. In cases where the two are at odds with one another, the individual must follow his conscience and, if necessary, disregard human law.

How did Henry David Thoreau help slavery? ›

Thoreau was an abolitionist who helped runaway slaves and worked to repeal the fugitive slave law.

What does Thoreau mean by the mass of men serve the State thus not as men mainly but as machines with their bodies? ›

“The mass of men serve the State, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies.” By saying "the mass of men," Henry David Thoreau implies that most citizens serve the government in one way or another. The word serve suggests a lack of freedom, and the word machines suggests a lack of control and consciousness.

What did Emerson say in his elegy about Thoreau? ›

He wrote in his eulogy of Thoreau that “no equal companion stood in affectionate relations with one so pure and guileless,” and went so far as to comment, “I think the severity of his ideal interfered to deprive him of a healthy sufficiency of human society.” Then, too, there was an offputting thorniness to Thoreau's ...


1. A Life of Quiet Desperation: Why Following Society Ruins Your Life
(Colin Stuckert)
2. Quiet Desperation - Motivational Video
3. The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation - start moving towards what you want
(Rob Lally)
4. The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation ~ Henry David Thoreau #joerogan #motivation #mindset
5. The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation (and what to do about it)
(Rob Lally)
6. Joe Rogan On "The most MEN Live Lives Of Quiet DESPERATION..."
(Cycasmotivation Clips)


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