Where I live, and what I live for

‘Who knows but if men constructed their dwellings with their own hands, and provided food for themselves and families and simply and honestly enough, the poetic faculty would be universally developed, as birds universally sting when they are engaged.’
(Henry David Thoreau)

What is most important?  What we do?  Or who we do it for?

I want to bring these more and more together into a synchronicity.

The essayist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau impresses me as he builds his own home, digging the cellar, setting in place the chimney’s foundations, raising the major structure with the aid of others, and as he does, ponders life:

”It would be worth the while to build still more deliberately than I did, considering, for instance, what foundation a door, a window, a cellar, a garret, have in the nature of man, and perchance never raising any superstructure until we found a better reason for it then our temporal necessities even.’*

I didn’t build the house I live in.  This was erected by people I will never be able to name, back in 1950.  A solid council house, my wife and I had the luxury of slowly getting it ready to move into – slowly because of our skills-level, but we got there and it was a close as we might get to building our own home.

It was the garden where I was able to introduce more novelty, losing myself in thought as I took a year or more to move tons of stones so I could work on what what beneath, and then moving them back, washing them by hand on the way.  This followed by creating beds and planting shrubs.  I enjoyed this time, finding myself thinking about all kinds of things to do with life, work and health.  I think this is a little of what Thoreau was imagining.

In our complicated society, though, others build, make or grow things for us, and we are separated from this natural synchronising of activity and thought.

Reading Thoreau, I’d come to wonder about how this building of a home offers itself as an analogy for lends itself for building our own lives.

We have a home we probably have not built, but we also have opinions we have come to without direct contact with others and we live within stories we have not written.

It seems the same thing was running through Thoreau’s mind:

‘Where is this division of labour to end? and what object does it finally serve?  No doubt another may also think for me; but it is not therefore desirable that he should do so to the exclusion of me thinking for myself.’*

Life is about removing the separations and creating the synchronicities.  To take back the responsibility of writing our own stories, of identifying choosing and living out our talents and passions.  Joseph Jaworski might say we have given up so much for:

‘We are partners in the unfolding of the universe.’**

And Alex McManus sees that we are more than enough to meet the challenge:

‘We are a mystery wrapped in a question.’^

Life may certainly be simpler when we outsource it but, as Nassim Taleb reminds us, it is ‘simplification that is dangerous’.^^

(*From Henry David Thoreau’s Where I Lived, and What I  Lived For.)
(**From Joseph Jaworski’s Source.)
(^From Alex McManus’ Makers of Fire – eBook version.)
(^^From Nassim Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness.)


A square canvas from £40 (25x25cm) to £100 (61x61cm)

Get in touch at geoffrey@thinsilence.org to find out more

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