I had this advantage, at least, in my mode of life, over those who were obliged to look abroad for amusement, to society and the theater, that my life itself was become my amusement and never ceased to be novel. It was a drama of many scenes and without an end…Follow your genius closely enough, and it will not fail to show you a fresh prospect every hour. Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Henry David Thoreau was an American naturalist, writer and philosopher. He had a curious and persistent mind, was one of country’s great thinkers and Walden remains one of the seminal works produced by an American writer.
The 200th anniversary of Thoreau’s birth was this week. It passed with little fanfare – even we weren’t aware of it until late in the day – which is probably the way Thoreau would have wanted it because Thoreau lived from the inside out, and outside influences usually held little sway in his life.
Thoreau was an interesting man because he didn’t want anything for himself that he didn’t want for everyone else. What he wanted for himself was a life well lived, a life lived simply, a life spent responding to what he was moved to do from something deep inside him. Everything else was secondary.
…my life itself had become my amusement and never ceased to be novel.
Thoreau was interested in an awful lot, and little of it had to with caring or providing for himself. Two centuries later this provides a useful lesson for those open to it. It’s easy to get caught up in the cacophony of everyday life: livings have to be earned, families need our attention and every day there are a myriad of other things there to distract us.
Follow your genius closely enough, and it will not fail to show you a fresh prospect every hour.
Thoreau spent his life following his genius. He spent his life doing what nature compelled him to do, and he carved out the life he was meant to live. His influence is still felt today.
We may not influence future generations – or we might, who knows? – but as long as we follow Thoreau’s example of living from the inside out, of doing what we were meant to do and not merely reacting to outside forces, we will be living the life we were meant to live, life’s great prize.
The Thought for the Day runs regularly. All quotes are from Gaylon’s private stock.