Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Desperately seeking quiet

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things."

Figures. I found an online text of Thoreau's Walden because I wanted to find the context in which this famous quotation lies. It turns out all I needed to do was read as far as five pages into the book. It's the ninth paragraph. I suppose it's a famous quote in part because anyone who gives the book the old college try is going to find it within about five minutes. Did I mention I never have read Walden despite having a degree in American literature and owning copies of the book for, oh, 30 years?

Every now and then I think of that quote and think it might be me. But every now and then I think of that quote and think I'm enjoying life too much to be quietly desperate about it. Every now and then I get a little bit tired of listening to the sound of my tears. Every now and then I get a little bit nervous that the best of all the years have gone by.

But then, of course, I say to myself, "Turn around, bright eyes!"

This Thoreau guy had a lot to say, but even though I have a link to some handy HDT wisdom right there on the right column somewhere, I have only dabbled here and there in his writings. I have spent more time exploring the work of Nathan Fillion than Henry David Thoreau. That puts me back in the company of the mass of men, no doubt.

But, ya know, I don't believe in masses of men. It's when you, mentally or physically, organize men and women into masses that you begin to lose sight of the individual. It's easier to deny freedom to someone who is part of a mass - masses are all the same so it doesn't matter if individual liberty is squashed. It's easy to say women shouldn't be allowed to do this or that; it's very hard to look a specific woman in the eye and say, "You can't do that." At least the first time. At least until you start thinking of her as part of a mass of women and not an individual with a name and a soul. Even huge, faceless bureaucracies are comprised of many individuals - many of them, most of them, no doubt living lives of quiet desperation.

In the peace of morning, away from the overstimulation, it's not so hard to separate the individual from the masses. I imagine that's why Thoreau decided to walk away from the overstimulation. I know that's why I feel the urge most every day to walk away. And if I couldn't find the peace of morning to stay somewhat centered for another day, I just might walk away. The best days are when I wake up and am overwhelmed by the complex infinity of souls I encounter, rather than collect those souls into finite boxes. Interestingly enough, in the quiet, the quiet desperation floats gently away.

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Blogger mnuez said...

Damn cool blog, my friend. I just found you quite accidentally but I'm glad I did. Cheers!


2:26 AM  

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