I sometimes think Thoreau was thinking ahead when he wrote the conclusion of Walden: "The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the paths which the mind travels. How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity." Someone asked me recently how I might define an "authentic" life and I said I could only answer for myself. To me, what is sacred about life is our desire to live a meaningful existence. To make our own tradition, follow our hearts, live out our passions. Some people are lucky to just survive, others are content to exist, still more accept the expectations of others for them.
In my life, in our culture, I hear many good reasons every day why people feel they cannot live lives that are authentic to them. Health care. Retirement. Mortgages. Kid's tuitions. Security. Parents. The News. The Economy. The Market. Fear. Obligations. Bills. This to me is the music of the lost. The very idea of a Thoreau seems absurd in our time. How many people do any of us know who will cut those very powerful and real chords and set out to live their lives, to define what is important to them, and jump off the tall and terrifying and magnificent bridge that is life. Thoreau gave up a mortgage, had no health care, refused conventional work, had no security, set out on a course of self-determination. Two hundred years later, we are quoting him still. How strange he seems now. I am no Thoreau. I worry about things all the time – money, mortgages, family, security and fear has often roadblocked me from living my life.
I am getting there. Closer than before. The ruts of tradition and conformity are worn deep, and I walk in them every day, every time I leave the farm and set out into the world, or listen to the news, or hear another poor soul explain to me why they live in those ruts and can't climb out. My heroes are the people who do manage to climb out, whose hearts are beating out of their chests, who sometimes can barely take a breath they are so afraid, and still, every day, they climb out and make their own path. Are these not the truly blessed people of the world?
If you are out there and reading this, close your eyes and take heart. Do not cry for your life, as you are radiant. The wind will come and fetch you, and carry you home and the angels will sing to you along the way.