31 years on this earth and I’m torn between two related Thoreau quotes to sum up how I’m feeling:
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.
Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
That first quote – at least the first sentence – is the best known Thoreau quote and while I don’t think it always applies to me, it reminds me not to get complacent or lazy or satisfied with the trajectory my life (personal, spiritual, professional) is on.
The second quote is almost more powerful. It’s a reminder not to dwell on the trappings of success as defined by modern society or media.
In the end, I still don’t know if either makes me feel any better or any worse. I’m still in my own head too much to admit that the first quote might mean I’m living a life of quiet desperation.
And I’m scared to admit that I really do yearn for success (potentially in a desperate enterprise: creativity) and that I hear this different drummer.
So there you go, kids. After 31 birthdays and a staunch desire to be funny/witty/creative/”someone”, you too can wind up navel-gazing blogging about Thoreau.
Smell the cliche!
Who knows, maybe the unexamined life is worth living? At least on your birthday.