27 August 2011

Moving On

Thoreau says that he left Walden for the same reason he had moved there: he had other lives to live. His is an interesting statement. Certainly it was always Thoreau’s life that he led regardless of the place and the activity, but in this statement he seems to acknowledge that life is not some packaged screenplay that is given whole at birth, a part to be learned and then enacted according to a script; rather, life is the myriad moments of active living in which, at each moment, we enact a different life according to purpose (conscious, or even otherwise) and context (Marx said that men live their own lives but not in circumstances of their own choosing). Not a chaotic disordered life without purpose, but the possibility of many opportunities to explore and discover. The choice was all. At Walden Thoreau learned to live with what the world might continually offer, and as his life he sought to pursue possibilities in a variety of modes, registers and locations. Thoreau knew that it was always conceivable that he could live a life of quiet desperation: he remarks that he hadn’t been at Walden a week before he had already beaten a path to the pond. Habit is too easily formed; change requires determination and even strength. If necessary Thoreau was prepared to live such a life of desperation if he discovered that this is what he had to do. He acknowledges: “I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary” But if there were alternatives, then Thoreau intends to pursue them aware that each pursuit would not lead to but actually be a different life. 
And so we continue to move on. He not busy being born is being dying, Dylan warns. Sometimes the motive to move comes from within; sometimes we require an external stimuli to alert us that we have become sedentary to provoke our movement. Sometimes this stimuli is pleasant and at other times not so, but finally movement is good and necessary.  And I am fortunate to experience change as not only essential but available. I am not threatened now by change and challenge. 
We are moving on: a curious metaphor, in fact. Moving on suggests some pathway or track on which we traversed but have become somehow . . . inactive? We have become stuck, or perhaps unaware of our activity, which may be the same thing, I suppose. We are not awake, and know not necessarily what we do. Somehow, we appear as if we move though we are really just standing still. We have already beaten a path down to the pond and no longer consider the walk to our daily bath with any curiosity, if we think about it at all. 
Sometimes I avoid thinking where I am because it is too unpleasant to do so. But this present moment of movement affords me some time for pleasant reflection. We are moving on.  We had other lives to live. And right now it feels like freedom.


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