Thursday, April 7, 2011

Castles in the Air

Walden (1854)
by Henry David Thoreau

I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.  He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.  In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.  If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.  Now put the foundations under them.

In a past life, I am CONVINCED I was a 19th-century Transcendentalist.  There is so much in the work of the Thoreau, Emerson, and my favorite poet, Walt Whitman, that resonates for me.  The act of finding one's spiritual nature that "transcends" the physical by simple contemplation, intellect, intuition, and a communion with nature is such a personally romantic and powerful idea.  Thoreau's Walden is such an important piece of literature for me - it represents an "experiment" in which a man chooses to leave his life of "quiet desperation" and choose instead one of simplicity, solitude, and introspection.  He does this to separate himself from the growing impersonal nature of society, to find more leisure time to write, and consider his relationship with himself spiritually.  Sound familiar?

I have but one word for the passage above ... AMEN.  Could there not be a more perfect statement of what I have been trying to say about this "sabbatical" I am on and what it means to me?  I'd like to think of this year and a half as MY "Walden" ... and though it's far from living in complete solitude off the labor of my own two hands in a shack on the shores of a pond in Concord, Massachussetts, it represents my personal call for ...

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!  I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.  In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quick-sands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion.

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