“Be resolutely and faithfully what you are. Be humbly what you aspire to be … man’s noblest gift to man is his sincerity, for it embraces his integrity also.”
Henry David Thoreau
I don’t think there is a generation alive on the planet today that does not contain a contingent of Henry David Thoreau lovers, specifically, lovers of his greatest work, “Walden.” In every generation for the last 150+ years, young and old have dreamed of leaving the rat race behind and going to live deliberately in the woods to follow their true passions. I am one such person.
I discovered old Henry David (as I refer to him) a little later than most people who were introduced to his work in college or high school. I did not complete my college education until I was in my 30’s, having returned to school to get my degree when my girls were old enough to look after themselves while Mom divided her time between them, a job, and school. In any case, one of my favorite English professors had us read Walden as part of our class work and it wasn’t long before I realized that here was a man who had somehow looked into my own heart and found my deepest desires. From that moment on, Walden became my guidebook for living. It took me another six years before I started my own journey to find my Walden Pond and for the last 25 years it has felt as if Henry David was with me every step of the way.
I have been doing a great deal of research recently in preparation for completing the last book in my Third Age Trilogy due out in January (books One and Two are available on Amazon. Check the menu on the Home Page for links). Currently, I am reading a book called “The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling,” by Stephen Cope, Director of the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living (this place is at the top of my bucket list). One of the chapters in the book just happens to be about my hero, Thoreau. I discovered a great deal about him that I did not know, including the fact that although his passion was to stay in Concord and write from his heart, he was convinced by friends and family, including his mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, to go to New York and become a “real writer.” So that is what he did. For two years he wrote and strived to publish what was then the accepted norm in literary circles, and all the while he was homesick and miserable for the life he loved. Finally, he came to the conclusion that he had to live the life he was meant to live and to “be resolutely and faithfully” who he was. Cope writes that even though Thoreau was thought to be a loser by society and the cultural norms of the time, he “embraced his inner loser … he was engaged in dharma that was right-sized.” In 1845, Thoreau returned to Concord to begin his two-year experiment to “live deliberately” beside Walden Pond where he penned his most famous works.
Stephen Cope tell us that: “It is, therefore, the sacred duty of every individual human soul to be utterly and completely itself-to be that jewel at that time and in that place, and to be that jewel utterly.” An authentic life is a life lived in integrity, that is, when our outer lives and our inner lives are in harmony. Thoreau wasn’t any more in harmony in New York City than I was. Even when I’ve wandered off my true path and found my life being lived by the beliefs of others, it has always been the calling of my inner Walden that has brought me back to authenticity, to the jewel I was meant to be.
It is our responsibility to ourselves and the world to take the gifts that we have been given and live the life we are meant to live. If we are sincere about creating our authentic lives, we have to connect to those gifts and wear our jewels proudly, without regret or fear of what others will think of us. To do anything else would be to deny who we truly are.
Where in your life have you been discouraged from living the life you were meant to live? Our writing assignment this week is going to ask us to explore those moments when we do not allow our jewels to shine. As always, have fun, and keep writing.
Peace and blessings.