Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Philosophical ramblings on Thoreau and Tacoma

When I (allegedly) read Henry David Thoreau's Walden during my years as a Lute, it didn't phase me much.

Today, a single quote ran me over.

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." (Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854)

I had just completed a free-writing exercise about "what motivates me." I had started with the typical things. My family, my friends, creating a positive environment, passionate people, etc. Which is, in part, true. But I quickly realized it isn't the essence of my motivation. It's the superficial, brain-friendly side of things. But what is it that makes me passionate about even those things?

I wrapped up the 5-minute writing session realizing that, honestly, it's fear that motivates me.

I'm afraid of not living, of being a mere observer rather than grabbing the reins and taking charge of the years I have. I'm afraid of looking back 50 years from now and having pushed my "what if" list, my "to do" list, my "if only" list so far into the "I'll do it later" realm that I miss out on being an active participant in not just my community and family life, but in MY life.

And then I looked up to Thoreau's quote on the project screen in front of me.


You see, I'm not one to take things literally.

I'd been peeking through the trees of my woods for years, but never had the courage to just walk in. To see what was there. Last year, that changed. A lot changed in my life. Family roles, jobs, the things on my to-do list. And while the path through the woods is still a bit spooky, I feel like now that I had the courage to wander down the path I hadn't yet followed, it's the right path.

To quote another great writer: "I found passion for life in Tacoma." (Thanks, Neko.)

This Thoreau, the unknown, the fear to wake up later with regrets, it explains a lot about my passion for the town where I finally learned to unleash my inner sphinx.

And thus I continue to preach: Live local; die happy.

Not sure where to get started?

Check out a few of these spunky, soul-feeding, fundamentally Tacoma things that you can be a part of, as an observer ... or a participant.

And there are plenty other ways to grab the reins locally and help make sure that when you look back, decades from now, you're happy with what you see. There's plenty more out there ... these are just my three favorites of the moment.

My main request: Do something that scares you.

1 comment:


"Live deliberately" is a classroom rule that all my kids have to live by. The meek might inherit the earth one day, but they don't get far if I am their teacher.

I read Walden the first few weeks I was a Peace Corps volunteer. I related to nearly every aspect of the book. The lists of groceries and supplies get a little tedious at times, but I understand why he included them.

Funny, I didn't expect to get as much out of Thoreau and Walden as I did. Meanwhile, I anticipated great things from Jack Kerouac's "On The Road", but I wound up detesting the book and immensely disliking the author. Yet the two are often compared and even likened to one another in terms of the journey motif and other literary sorts of critiques.