“Our life is frittered away by detail…simplify, simplify.” – Henry David Thoreau
I wonder if Thoreau understood how incredibly privileged he was in his Walden shack? I think maybe he did. Even in his much quieter time, he must have known there weren’t many who enjoyed that kind of liberty and peace. He would likely have been horrified had he been suddenly dropped into our time and into our culture. If he resented the railroads of his time, what would he have thought of the roaring rivers of asphalt called freeways, never quiet day or night? If he thought the newspapers of his time full of frivolous gossip and inconsequential happenings, what would he think of CNN, Google, Facebook, and Twitter? I think he would have taken a stance that might have earned him the Luddite label. And maybe he would have become a little depressed like a lot of us.
” I believe that the mind can be permanently profaned by the habit of attending to trivial things, so that all our thoughts shall be tinged with triviality.” – Henry David Thoreau
Psychic pain is nothing new, but has it ever before in history been the epidemic that it is now? I think not. And it’s no wonder. We are profoundly disconnected from each other and from the sources of our life and health. We replace genuine connection with the sedating effects of chemicals, those we can get from a bottle and those that are released in our own brains when we pacify ourselves in front of our myriad of screens. Even our beloved home, our little jewel in space, reflects our dysfunction and adds to our stress with its strange and frightening symptoms of planetary fever.
My mind is my escape. I often dream of a little cabin by an isolated and beautiful lake. All that would be audible there would be the rush of wind through the trees, birdsong, the buzz of insects, the lap of water at the shore. Every day I would paddle out over the mirror-like water in a little wooden canoe. I would stare down into the clear, clear water all the way to its brightly green, moss-covered bottom. I would watch schools of fish swim underneath me. The cool air would be spiked with the spicy scent of birch, aspen, and evergreens. Sometimes the warm sun would make the water seem very inviting and I would, like an otter, slip into the cool wet and swim awhile with the fish. The cold shock would soon become a cool caress, and I would emerge dripping, enlivened, and vibrantly alert.