Thoreau’s message to embrace life

In 1854 Henry David Thoreau published Walden, his treatise inspired by living a mostly solitary life in nature. He explains:

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. 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 out all the marrow 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.

To live deliberately – a noble endeavor and one that Thoreau himself thought that few of us experienced. “Be it life or death, we crave only reality,” he says. “If we are really dying, let us hear the rattle in our throats and feel cold in the extremities; if we are alive, let us go about our business.”

In terms of health, how many of us are thwarted by the feeling that we are not living fully in this world, that we are limited by society, family, occupation, money, power, land, or anything else we might imagine? With this feeling of limitation comes a weakened response to life, a weakened immune system, a lesser sense of purpose, and a lesser sense of self. Those with a powerful sense of their place in the world, a powerful sense of purpose and drive, are the healthiest and happiest among us. For, in truth, life is sublime! One need only find one’s truest place, one’s niche, and one will “cut a broad swath;” one will create, one will give, and one will receive – joyously and gratefully.

“God himself [sic],” Thoreau continues, “culminates in the present moment, and will never be more divine in the lapse of all the ages. And we are enabled to apprehend at all what is sublime and noble only by the perpetual instilling and drenching of the reality that surrounds us.” The present moment is all we need for peace, harmony, and full living. Stop worrying, ease your anxieties, take a deep breath, and dive into this moment, here, now. You need not go to the woods for two years, though surely that would help; you need only breathe deeply and open your awareness to what is in your life right now. There is much to be grateful for; there is much to enjoy; there is much adventure on the horizon – all to be enjoyed, all from which to grow, all for you. Step into this life, live sturdily, trust your body, mind, and spirit to guide you, and you will find those places and those people who will participate with you in deep, sublime experience. The hermit’s words are true today; let not your life be so “frittered away in detail” that you miss the big picture, the beauty and glory of being alive, of being an ember from the fire of life, in each and every present moment.

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