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Setting the Tone

I had a professor in college who pointed out that the greatest books in history had great opening lines that set the tone for the everything that followed.  He pointed out the Bible as the most unambiguous example of setting the tone for everything else that follows, but you can’t forget the brilliance of Homer or Dickens or Melville.  Consider:

“In the beginning, God created heaven, and earth.” – The Book of Genesis, Holy Bible

“Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story” – Homer, The Odyssey

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

“Call me Ishmael” – Herman Melville, Moby Dick

I’d humbly point out that great songs have a similar tendency.  And since most people seem to have shelved their discipline of reading the classics after graduation, it may be an easier example to illustrate.  Consider the following immortal songs and how the opening line sets the tone for all that comes after:

“Mother, mother ocean, I have heard you call” – Jimmy Buffett, A Pirate Looks at Forty

“If you could read my mind love” – Gordon Lightfoot, If You Could Read My Mind

“Something in the way she moves” – The Beatles, Something

“Out of the tree of life I just picked me a plum” – Carolyn Leigh, The Best is Yet To Come

“Don’t worry about a thing” – Bob Marley, Three Little Birds

“Imagine there’s no heaven” – John Lennon, Imagine

“There must be some way out of here” – Bob Dylan, All Along the Watchtower

And so it is that I think about the words that set the tone for this blog, and took the immortal words of Henry David Thoreau that grace the home page of this site and made them more prominent.  For his call to action is also my own, and set the tone for all that this blog aims to be:

“Rise free from care before the dawn, and seek adventures.” – Henry David Thoreau

I realized somewhere along the way that this is exactly the way I try to live; rising early, seeking adventure in this day, writing about it when it deserves consideration (and perhaps sometimes when it doesn’t), savoring the day and then putting it behind me, that I might rise from care once again tomorrow.  This isn’t head-in-the-sand optimism, it’s a calling, and some days are more adventurous and free from care than others.  But string them together and you set the tone for a life more interesting.  What sets the tone for your life?  Be bold in your selection.

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