Friday, June 20, 2008

Live Deliberately

I walk by the Supreme Court twice a day. In the morning, I walk by the front, and in the afternoon, I walk past the back. I see it from all sides. The building that houses Lady Justice.

And every morning, there are protesters. Usually just a few. This morning, there were only two. I used to look at them and laugh a little. They do look a little silly, just two people standing in front of that great building while tourists meander, taking pictures, killing time after visiting their senators or wondering where they can eat lunch. And professionals scurry hurriedly to their offices, never glancing up at that great building or thinking of its significance in their lives.

But those protesters never forget for a moment where they are or why they're standing there. They almost always have tape over their mouths, symbols of feeling silenced by the authorities.

But then one day, I was reminded of a story I heard about Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. The two were great friends. In fact, the famous Walden Pond where Thoreau spent two years to "live deliberately" and "front only the essential facts of life" was on Emerson's property.

At one point in his life, Thoreau was thrown into jail for not paying a fine. He saw disagreed with the fine and found it unjust the authorities were demanding it so he chose jail instead. Emerson visited his friend at jail and paid the fine. When they saw each other, Emerson, surely exasperated at his friend's antics, said, "Henry. What are you doing in there?" Thoreau replied, "The real question, Waldo, is what are you doing out there?"

And that's what I think of now when I see those protesters. It's not, "Why are those ridiculous people standing there with no one paying attention to them?" It's, "Why am I hurrying by and not standing there with them, standing up for injustice?" The message the Transcendalists tried to teach us is to simply "trust thyself; every heart vibrates to that iron string."

It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined.
- Henry David Thoreau


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