Hello Gentle Reader,
Well, it’s been an interesting month on Lake Wobegone. “Life” kind of took over for awhile so I’m behind on adding new content. Also, I have started writing fiction (hooray!) so my writing time is now more divided. But, I am working on a few things and hope to add some new work in the coming week. In the meantime, here’s a little something I put together in the fall of 2009, when, after many years, I finally read “Walden” in its entirety.
The cool mornings that herald the onset of fall are once again inspiring the romantic in me to read Thoreau. I’ve read pieces and parts of “Walden” before but tend to space out and always end up going back to the “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…” section made popular in Dead Poets Society. Today I read the entire chapter in which this quote appears (titled “Where I lived”) and was struck by the wisdom and poetry that precedes and follows this famous and beautiful passage.
In the middle of a discussion about the beauty and opportunity of the dawn, Thoreau offers this…
“Morning is when I am awake and there is dawn in me. Moral reform is the effort to throw off sleep. Why is it that men give so poor an account of their day if they have not been slumbering?… The millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?
We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by the infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of a man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which we morally can do. To affect the quality of a day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour. If we refused, or rather used up, such paltry information as we get, the oracles would distinctly inform us how this might be done.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. etc..”
He goes on to criticize the rising industrialization and commercialism of modern society and how they can pull us away from the contemplation of and connection with the ground of being. He ends the chapter with this
“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars… I think that the richest vein is somewhere hereabouts; so by the divining rod and thin rising vapors I judge; and here I will begin to mine.”
May these words inspire you, as they have inspired me, to continually awaken to the eternal dawn, to the infinite deep of being where we can begin to mine the depths of the heart.