June 16, 2010

To live deep

I remember having a discussion with some young people about Thoreau's Walden a while back. One person pointed out that he didn't really rough it or live totally off the land, as if he cheated by having occasional dinners at a friend's house.

I tried to point out as tactfully as I could that he didn't go to the woods for commando or survival training. It was more of what we might call today an extended spiritual retreat.

In some of his best known words, he explained his reasons this way:

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 never 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 all the marrow out 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, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

Thoreau is at his best in passages like that which challenge the reader. It would be terrible thing to discover at the end of life that one had never lived at all.

CUTTING CORNERS. That would be BP. Here's the Washington Post on the president's speech while we're at it.

STATING THE OBVIOUS. Here's Dean Baker on the obtuseness of some of his fellow economists.


A DEAL? It looks like the dispute which cost the Rev. Jim Lewis his license to function as a priest in WV is close to resolution.

MAKING EYES. Caterpillars, no doubt after a careful study of The Art of War, make false ones to scare off predators.



Anonymous said...

That is such a beautiful and photogenic little saanen doe!

El Cabrero said...

Thanks! Her name is Honeysuckle and she acts like a bad puppy.