Friday, November 17, 2006

Where We Live And What We Live For

One of my favorite essays of all time is Thoreau's Where I Lived and What I Lived For. I find such peace in his words that we can somehow rise above what we are by nature and be somehow better. The elections are over and I know that we fought a good fight and the people of Montana rose up above what was given to them. It was good cause and we were made better by it.

This past weekend I made a trip to Park Lake near Helena Montana with my family. I looked at the place we were at, I looked at the people I was with and realized that I was made better by it. All of us there together in that place were equal to more than the sum of our parts. We were all made better for it.

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour. If we refused, or rather used up, such paltry information as we get, the oracles would distinctly inform us how this might be done.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to "glorify God and enjoy him forever."

Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry. Men say that a stitch in time saves nine, and so they take a thousand stitches today to save nine tomorrow.

I hope that Jon Tester can take these words from Thoreau and consider what this place that we live in means to us. I hope that he will use his time wisely so that ours was not wasted.

I hope that my children can take these words from Thoreau and realize what this place we live in means to me. I hope that we can all take these words from Thoreau and realize that we can rise up and transcend the nastiness of life that often locks us into a world of glum.


pjfinn said...

I just read and re-read your post several times. It touches on my own values and beliefs on so many levels that I don't even know where to begin to reply. There is no single reply so I'll simply say good post and I hope you continue to occasionally tap this vein.

Troutburst said...

nice job

Rachel said...

A wonderful post and thank you for the pictures of Park Lake. I didn't make it up there this year so it was nice to see it again.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Becky Campbell Bigley said...

Shane Mason, I lived all those years as your neighbor and never knew you were a fellow Thoreauian. Did you know that is my son Jeremiah's middle name, Thoreau?
Anyway, it is wonderful to know that you and your family are happy and whole. I wish you much peace and joy. And ADVENTURES!!!!!

Becky Campbell Bigley

Say hello to the Mrs. and hug those sweet kids for me:)

Shane C. Mason said...

Becky! How good it is to hear from you! I did not know that was Jeremiah's middle name. Very cool. Well, we should have talked about literature more often I suppose!

All the family is well. The children are growing much to quickly, as you likely know is common place. We think of you guys often and the old neighborhood often. We miss Missoula. Helena is growing on us a bit though ;)

We will be coming to Missoula tomorrow for a service. I am not sure if you have heard, but our old neighbor Alison passed last week. She was diagnosed with brain cancer and fought the good fight for a year and a half. We are very sad for Aaron and the kids and we are sad for ourselves.

It was good to hear from you Becky. Tell Michael hello and hug the kids for us.

rockonseahawks said...

Absolutely beautiful post.

Too wake up in the morning and watch the sunrise, you can't help but feel renewed and full of life. Each day ia a new day, a new adventure, a new opportunity to live a glorious life in this beautiful world. Loving your family, cherishing good friends and enjoying lots of laughter, that is what life is all about.

I really enjoy these inspirational and heartfelt posts. You have a gift. Keep up the good work. :)

Leesa said...

This is beautiful.