The Thought for the Day – Henry David Thoreau

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau, Walden


While not our personal favorite Thoreau quote, it is one his most popular. It is also one of his most versatile and we’ve always gotten a kick out of seeing it cited by both serious thinkers and as well as misfits looking to explain their lives, mainly to themselves, an excuse for living a life that is not what nature intended for them and not doing themselves or us any good.

If a man does not keep pace with his companions…

If keeping pace with our companions means mindless adherence to the norms they impose, then bravo to those who do not. Everyone’s drummer produces a distinctive beat; you can’t march to mine and I can’t march to yours. Now, it’s not always easy to march to this beat because every day there are a hundred and one distractions, from the mindless norms imposed by society to legitimate events that demand our attention.

The only real decision we need to make in this life is if we are going to follow our drummer or ignore him. Each one of us has our own drummer sounding our own unique beat. Are we listening to it, or are we ignoring it? I can’t answer that question for you and you can’t answer it for me. We answer that question every day, and we will be obliged to answer it one final time when our time comes to die.

Those that get on in this life, those who end up looking back on time well-spent, invariably have spent their lives following their drummer’s beat. Those that are, perhaps, looking back on time squandered have probably ignored their drummer.

Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away…

Our drummer is there every day – every minute, actually – relentlessly providing our life’s soundtrack. Are we similarly relentless in living the life we were meant to live, or are we merely marking time while on this planet?

The Thought for the Day runs regularly. Quotes are from Gaylon’s private stock.

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