The language of Henry David Thoreau’s Waldon is lyrical and poetic – not my usual reading style; concentration required. His famous line: “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” drew me outside my comfort zone. The line resonates. Why? Could be that I know “quiet desperation.” Happily I also know I’m so NOT willing to sit in its grip. What makes so many so desperate? And why won’t they do anything about it? Thoreau says:
“Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate.”
My recent self-reflection feels this philosophy. Acknowledging my need for boundaries and taking action; getting conked on the head to “wake-up” from my mechanical negative thoughts both influenced how I see myself – and what I think of myself. Since then, a few “public opinions” didn’t faze me as I showed up with Intent and self-awareness. How flippin’ cool is that?!!
“All change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every instant. Confucius said, “To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.”
We don’t know what we don’t know. True knowledge accepts this; I am more willing to open my mind and my heart when I acknowledge this. After our basic needs are met – Thoreau asks:
“When a man is warmed . . . what does he want next? Surely not more warmth of the same kind, as more and richer food, larger and more splendid houses, finer and more abundant clothing, more numerous, incessant, and hotter fires, and the like. When he has obtained those things which are necessary to life, there is another alternative than to obtain the superfluities; and that is, to adventure on life now, his vacation from humbler toil having commenced.”
Some people will rise up and “adventure on life” – the rest will live with desperation. What makes them cling to something incredibly uncomfortable?
WORDS – “the mass of men who are discontented, and idly complaining of the hardness of their lot or of the times, when they might improve them. There are some who complain most energetically and inconsolably of any, because they are, as they say, doing their duty.
GOLDEN HANDCUFFS – “I also have in my mind that seemingly wealthy, but most terribly impoverished class of all, who have accumulated dross, but know not how to use it, or get rid of it, and thus have forged their own golden or silver fetters.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Stop with the negative; wake-up to idle complaints, mechanical and dutiful thinking; take action – this is something I can, and will do. Oh, those “golden or silver fetters” though – not so easy to dump the dross! All that “stuff” is the illusion of security. Without it I would do … what? Be courageous? Fly? Maybe I would fly.
“According to your faith be it unto you.” ― Matthew 9:29