I remember a creative writing course I took in highschool, in which our teacher would give us photocopied passages of famous writing to show us what good writing could be. One of the passages she gave us was the below quote from Thoreau's Walden. It struck me deeply at the time, went straight to my soul in a way that few other things had. For many years I kept that sheet of paper from that class, and when I found it again last year I taped it up in my bedroom. There it remained until quite recently when Jasper ripped it down, and up. Ah, well. Here it is:
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. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience...
That passage still pulls at my heart, but instead of the teenage enthusiasm that made me think Yes! I want to live a meangingful life like that someday...I have a full-fledge passionate desire to get more out of life, to be more, now. At the risk of divulging my age, I will say that I passed through my twenties distractedly, getting wrapped up so much in day-to-day life, in work, and in the birth of my children, that I forgot my teenage ideals. I forgot my dreams of living in harmony with the land, of growing my own food--dreams which, in fact, I had had since I was a very young child. When I had free time, I played video games instead of dug in the garden...I was not living deliberately, I was going with the flow with no goals in particular. And the things I spent my time on were frivolous, for the most part. I was not "fronting only the essential facts of life."
But around the time I turned thirty my perspective changed again. Chris and I both feel that we drifted along aimlessly throughout our twenties, and now we regret it, and we want to start living life more deliberately. We want to set goals, and work towards them. Life is going by too fast--"I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear." Indeed. Life is too short to waste just drifting along. Now we want to live, to really live.
Living deliberately can mean entirely different things to different people. It all depends what a person's values and goals are. When we decided to start living deliberately, the vague idea we had had throughout our twenties of living a simple life in the country crystallized into a clear picture of what we wanted. And we started working towards it. However slow our progress might be, it feels so good to at last be going somewhere.
"To live deep and suck out all the marrow of life--" isn't that a glorious phrase? It describes exactly the type of life I want to live. I want to suck out the marrow of life, and if life turns out to be sublime I want to know it by experience. I love books, but I don't want to read of other people's experiences in books all my days. I want to have my own. Like Thoreau, I want to learn what life has to teach. You can't get that from books. But you can certainly get inspiration from books. So, I am going to go live life...and I hope you enjoyed reading Thoreau's inspiring words today.