It is true, I never assisted the sun materially in his rising, but, doubt not, it was of the last importance only to be present at it. – Henry David Thoreau, Walden
“I have been anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and the future, which is precisely the present moment.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden
I’ve come around to Walden once again. Thoreau to me has always been a distant cousin. A kindred spirit. A guy on the short list of people in history I’d have a beer or two with. Some people just speak more clearly to you than others. To pluck these two magnificent quotes from the same page of Walden demonstrates this. Thoreau has spoken to me off and on for years. The “off” years were solely my own distraction.
It’s Sunday. The beginning of the week. I’ve missed today’s sunrise so I posted a picture from the last sunrise of 2018. Sunrises infer a new day, and a fresh start. But it’s also the sharpened edge of the past and the present, of the two eternities. Isn’t that our lives as well? We’re all witnesses to the present. I’m particularly focused on what came before me, and look ahead with optimism to the future, but if I’ve been anything over the years it’s tuned to the now.
Thoreau was an acute observer of the moment, but also an acute participant in the moment. I aspire to be the same. Writing helps with observation, as it forces you to notice things. I’ve noticed more things since I’ve been writing this blog. I’ve learned to listen to the voices around me, but also the landscape. Participation comes with observation. To see the sunrise you’ve got to get out of bed. To walk through an old French fort from the 17th century you’ve got to know why it matters, where it is and then go to it. To be a good father or friend or spouse or son you’ve got to be present in the lives of those who identify you that way.
Observation doesn’t lead to participation, you’ve got to have the drive to do what must be done. The floor is dirty? Clean the floor. A friend needs a shoulder and an ear? Offer both freely. The pipeline needs to be filled? Make more sales calls and move opportunities forward. Participation requires action. Being an observer of life doesn’t equate to living.
So I’m re-reading Walden. I know already that I’m going to get more out of it than I did when I read it as an unfocused nineteen year-old. The words didn’t reflect back to me quite the same way then. But it meant a lot even then. And more so now. Everything has its time.