My Teacher, Hank

“Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written.”  ~  Henry David Thoreau

I think Thoreau would be pleased that my copy of Walden; Or, Life In The Woods is marked with highlighted passages and margin notes. The book is my go-to when things get difficult or complicated. As reference for myself, i have adorned my copy like a college textbook, marking each sentence that has an important lesson for me…

To remind me to take a step back and see the truth: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation… But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.”

To remember to keep it simple: “(To be a philosopher is) so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates; a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust.”

To not live in the past: “Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and forever again.”

To be kind: ” The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly.”

To resist the urge to rush and waste life: “Time is but the sandy stream I go  a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink, I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars.”

To enjoy the expanse of nature and life: “There are none happy in the world but beings who enjoy freely a vast horizon.”

And to fight my urge to accumulate “stuff”:  “In accumulating property for ourselves or our posterity, in founding a family or a state, or acquiring fame even, we are mortal; but in dealing with the truth, we are immortal, and need fear no change nor accident.”

Those are not all of the best passages, of course… Just the ones that jumped out at me today. On a different day, with different needs, some of the other passages will jump out. And i admit, i have similar markings and notes in Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the writings of Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein, and Robert Heinlein (among others, mostly fellow pantheists), and numerous holy books from a variety of religions. There is wisdom everywhere, if you look for it.

I love finding new sources of wisdom as well. I am forever asking people what books molded and shaped them. (Feel free to leave your favorite source of life-knowledge in the comments.) How else am i to find other springs from which to drink?

But more often than not, i am looking back to my pal, Hank. Philosophically and spiritually, we are in sync. I love his therapeutic writing style. And not for nothing, the man is a fellow Masshole. It makes sense that i am drawn to him. He has filled my head and heart and spirit with ideas that became the backbone of my soul.

I can only hope, that at the end of my life, if someone asks me if i have made my peace with God, i can respond as HDT did…

“I did not know we had ever quarreled.”

 

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