“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.”
Henry David Thoreau
Are we living our lives with intention?
Years ago I discovered Thoreau’s philosophical piece, Walden, or Life in the Woods in a literature survey course. Mostly because of him, I’ve stopped wearing a watch. While that may be a different topic for another post, I had to mention it for the sheer humor of my response.
If you’ve ever spent time in the woods to reconnect with nature, you’ll understand the reason one would go there for self discovery. The sounds of nature calm us: birds singing, the rustle of leaves in the wind, small animals skittering across the ground. These woods are a place of silence with which to unwind from the stresses of the world. It’s an instant meditation in some cases. Your eyes and ears can seem to span miles. You breathe deeply and awaken your lungs. Smells of pine, grasses, perhaps a flower can bring your mind to a sense of inner peace so powerful you’ll wonder why you don’t return as often as you’d like.
While at Walden Pond, Thoreau paid close attention to the seasons, calculated the depths of the pond, and wrote about the wonders of that small space of the earth. Even though the book is written as if one year was spent, the duration was actually two years. Many of his recorded thoughts aim to teach us how to live as simply as possible, without the so-called luxuries that entrap us into thinking that without them we have no value. Now, I didn’t stop wearing my wrist watch because it represented a luxury, no. My reason is so much more in depth than that. You see, the train had made its way into Concord, Massachusetts at the time Thoreau was writing. It was the intrusion of the train that he wrote about. Yes, intrusion. Today we recognize the revolutionary advancements the train and tracks provided for our country. The transportation, the moving of goods, the letters it brought from afar allowed us more freedoms. Does it not seem odd that Henry would despise the train? At one point in the text, he exclaims that the daily routine had become obnoxious and irritating. Its sounds and entrances into town destroyed the serenity of the peace he had found in the nearby woods. The train had imposed such an unnatural rut in the fabric of the earth so timely one can set his watch by its arrival.
There it is, yes?
What is it we do by such rote that disturbs our inner peace?
What do we allow in our lives that keeps us from living simply? Is it a schedule that we feel we must keep to be popular? Soccer moms, how many activities are your children involved in? Do these activities obstruct a relaxed dinner time around the family table?
Shouldn’t relationships we build be more important than keeping up with preconceived notions of the possible grandeur of unnecessary things?
Think about the woods again. They thrive without man pushing his way through to be known to it.