For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not. From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen. I know I have to go. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively, unless you can choose a challenge instead of a competence. No yesterdays on the road. Roads of the earth And roads of the spirit.
It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. My coming, my going — Two simple happenings That got entangled.
The difficulty is to find them to do. Our primary allegiance is to the human race and not to one particular color or border.
I was secretary, and wrote records, letters, and sent pledges, etc. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity. Also, this is not a book that you read once, get pumped up about its contents, and then forget about. Regret calamities, if you can thereby help the sufferer; if not, attend your own work, and already the evil begins to be repaired. Essential Reading: Buell, Lawrence, ed. If the first few stories are slightly out of line.
You cannot educate a man wholly out of the superstitious fears which were implanted in his imagination, no matter how utterly his reason may reject them. For some, who are travellers, the stars are guides.
For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems. For my businessman they were wealth. But all the stars are silent. You—you alone—will have the stars as no one else has them. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. And you know what you know.
New strangers on other paths await. New places that have never seen you Will startle a little at your entry. Old places that know you well Will pretend nothing Changed since your last visit. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity. You have only to give yourself time, sit in a teahouse watching the passers-by, stand in a corner of the market, go for a haircut.
You pick up a thread—a word, a meeting, a friend of a friend of someone you have just met—and soon the most insipid, most insignificant place becomes a mirror of the world, a window on life, a theatre of humanity. The truth is that they also surround words, ideas, desires, deeds, impulses and memories. When you get on a plane and travel you go 15 heartbeats per mile.
That is, in the time it takes to travel a mile in flight your heart beats 15 times. On a train your heart might beat times per mile. And we count this up and we make sense of it. Each entered the forest at a point that he himself had chosen, where it was darkest and there was no path. It comes to see that an edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring. There is no mob like a group of well-drilled soldiers when they have thrown off their discipline.
And there is no lostness like that which comes to a man when a perfect and certain pattern has dissolved about him. There is no hater like one who has greatly loved. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.
The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it. It is the symbol of his liberty-his excessive freedom.
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He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art. Real adventure—self-determined, self-motivated, often risky—forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it.
Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind—and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.
His pace seems determined henceforth; he never quickens it. A very rigid Nemesis is his fate. When the right wind blows or a star calls, I can leave this arable and grass ground, without making a will or settling my estate. I would buy a farm as freely as a silken streamer. Let me not think my front windows must face east henceforth because a particular hill slopes that way. My life must undulate still. I will not feel that my wings are clipped when once I have settled on ground which the law calls my own, but find new pinions grown to the old, and talaria to my feet beside.
March I find my life growing slovenly when it does not exercise a constant supervision over itself. Its duds accumulate. Next to having lived a day well is a clear and calm overlooking of all our days. Now we are partners in such legal trade, We'll look to the beginnings, not the ends, Nor to pay-day, knowing true wealth is made For current stock and not for dividends.
I am amused when I read how Ben Jonson engaged that the ridiculous masks with which the royal family and nobility were to be entertained should be "grounded upon antiquity and solid learning. Methinks all things have travelled since you shined, But only Time, and clouds, Time's team, have moved; Again foul weather shall not change my mind, But in the shade I will believe what in the sun I loved. In reading a work on agriculture, I skip the author's moral reflections, and the words "Providence" and "He" scattered along the page, to come at the profitable level of what he has to say.
There is no science in men's religion; it does not teach me so much as the report of the committee on swine. My author shows he has dealt in corn and turnips and can worship God with the hoe and spade, but spare me his morality. April 3. Friends will not only live in harmony, but in melody. April 4. The rattling of the tea-kettle below stairs reminds me of the cow-bells I used to hear when berrying in the Great Fields many years ago, sounding distant and deep amid the birches.
That cheap piece of tinkling brass which the farmer hangs about his cow's neck has been more to me than the tons of metal which are swung in the belfry. At first I thought a cow-bell, right at hand 'Mid birches, sounded o'er the open land, Where I plucked flowers Many years ago, Speeding midsummer hours With such secure delight they hardly seemed to flow.
April 5. This long series of desultory mornings does not tarnish the brightness of the prospective days. Surely faith is not dead. Wood, water, earth, air are essentially what they were; only society has degenerated. This lament for a golden age is only a lament for golden men. I only ask a clean seat.
I will build my lodge on the southern slope of some hill, and take there the life the gods send me. Will it not be employment enough to accept gratefully all that is yielded me between sun and sun? If my jacket and trousers, my boots and shoes, are fit to worship God in, they will do. Won't they, Deacon Spaulding? April 7. My life will wait for nobody, but is being matured still irresistibly while I go about the streets and chaffer with this man and that to secure it a living.
So flows a man's life, and will reach the sea water, if not by an earthy channel, yet in dew and rain, overleaping all barriers, with rainbows to announce its victory. It can wind as cunningly and unerringly as water that seeks its level; and shall I complain if the gods make it meander? This staying to buy me a farm is as if the Mississippi should stop to chaffer with a clamshell. What have I to do with plows? I cut another furrow than you see. Where the off ox treads, there is it not, it is farther off; where the nigh ox walks, it will not be, it is nigher still.
If corn fails, my crop fails not. What of drought? What of rain? Is not my sand well clayed, my peat well sanded? Is it not underdrained and watered? My ground is high, But 't is not dry, What you call dew Comes filtering through; Though in the sky, It still is nigh; Its soil is blue And virgin too. April 8. Friends are the ancient and honorable of the earth.
The oldest men did not begin friendship. It is older than Hindostan and the Chinese Empire. How long has it been cultivated, and is still the staple article! It is a divine league struck forever. Warm, serene days only bring it out to the surface. There is a friendliness between the sun and the earth in pleasant weather; the gray content of the land is its color. You can tell what another's suspicions are by what you feel forced to become.
You will wear a new character, like a strange habit, in their presence. April 9. It would not be hard for some quiet brave man to leap into the saddle to-day and eclipse Napoleon's career by a grander,—show men at length the meaning of war. One reproaches himself with supineness, that he too has sat quiet in his chamber, and not treated the world to the sound of the trumpet; that the indignation which has so long rankled in his breast does not take to horse and to the field.
The bravest warrior will have to fight his battles in his dreams, and no earthly war note can arouse him. There are who would not run with Leonidas. We are as much as we see. Faith is sight and knowledge. The hands only serve the eyes. The farthest blue streak in the horizon I can see, I may reach before many sunsets. What I saw alters not; in my night, when I wander, it is still steadfast as the star which the sailor steers by. Whoever has had one thought quite lonely, and could contentedly digest that in solitude, knowing that none could accept it, may rise to the height of humanity, and overlook all living men as from a pinnacle.
April A greater baldness my life seeks, as the crest of some bare hill, which towns and cities do not afford. I want a directer relation with the sun. True friendship is so firm a league That's maintenance falls into the even tenor Of our lives, and is no tie, But the continuance of our life's thread. If I would safely keep this new-got pelf, I have no care henceforth but watch myself, For lo! Shall I concern myself for fickleness, And undertake to make my friends more sure, When the great gods out of sheer kindliness, Gave me this office for a sinecure? Death cannot come too soon Where it can come at all, But always is too late Unless the fates it call.
The gods are of no sect; they side with no man. When I imagine that Nature inclined rather to some few earnest and faithful souls, and specially existed for them, I go to see an obscure individual who lives under the hill, letting both gods and men alone, and find that strawberries and tomatoes grow for him too in his garden there, and the sun lodges kindly under his hillside, and am compelled to acknowledge the unbribable charity of the gods.
Any simple, unquestioned mode of life is alluring to men. The man who picks peas steadily for a living is more than respectable. He is to be envied by his neighbors. May 1.
Life in gardens and parlors is unpalatable to me. It wants rudeness and necessity to give it relish. I would at least strike my spade into the earth with as good will as the woodpecker his bill into a tree. Especial I remember thee, Wachusett, who like me Standest alone without society. Thy far blue eye, A remnant of the sky, Seen through the clearing or the gorge, Or from the windows of the forge, Doth leaven all it passes by. Nothing is true But stands 'tween me and you, Thou western pioneer, Who know'st not shame nor fear, By venturous spirit driven Under the eaves of heaven; And canst expand thee there, And breathe enough of air?
May 3. We are all pilots of the most intricate Bahama channels. Beauty may be the sky over head, but Duty is the water underneath. When I see a man with serene countenance in the sunshine of summer, drinking in peace in the garden or parlor, it looks like a great inward leisure that he enjoys; but in reality he sails on no summer's sea, but this steady sailing comes of a heavy hand on the tiller. We do not attend to larks and bluebirds so leisurely but that conscience is as erect as the attitude of the listener.
The man of principle gets never a holiday. Our true character silently underlies all our words and actions, as the granite underlies the other strata. Its steady pulse does not cease for any deed of ours, as the sap is still ascending in the stalk of the fairest flower.
May 6. The fickle person is he that does not know what is true or right absolutely,—who has not an ancient wisdom for a lifetime, but a new prudence for every hour. We must sail by a sort of dead reckoning on this course of life, not speak any vessel nor spy any headland, but, in spite of all phenomena, come steadily to port at last. In general we must have a catholic and universal wisdom, wiser than any particular, and be prudent enough to defer to it always.
We are literally wiser than we know. What we need to know in any case is very simple. If a ridge intervene, I have but to seek, or make, a gap to the sea. May 9. The pine stands in the woods like an Indian, untamed, with a fantastic wildness about it, even in the clearings. If an Indian warrior were well painted, with pines in the background, he would seem to blend with the trees, and make a harmonious expression. The pitch pines are the ghosts of Philip and Massasoit. The white pine has the smoother features of the squaw.