I read an excellent post from the Art of Manliness here, from which I note the following observations:
Notions of success are personal. “Thoreau wasn’t ambitious for the traditional status markers held up by society, he was ambitious for something else: life. Life at its very essence. Life in its fullest form.” How many of us buzz around life like busy bees, without stopping to smell the roses? Or get so caught up in our endless pursuit of wealth that we fail to see that that the journey there had been filled with lessons and meaning that we never thought to consider? Has financial security and a big bank account balance become the only measure by which we can consider ourselves to be successful? Thoreau certainly did not think so.
External vs internal pursuits. “Approaching the world with imaginative openness, Thoreau lived for intense insight and for direct experience… His aim was to know himself, and to preserve this self sovereign in the face of the pressure to conform to deadening conventionalities.
To Thoreau, his rich sense of the inner world provided more than enough stimulation for him. This compared to our “busy lives” mentality seems incomprehensible at first, but I realise that introverts can relate. The blog post states that Thoreau was mostly homebound and rarely traveled far from home, yet he was able to live such an enlightened life. Most people constantly seek more things to add to their lives – more money, more friends, more hobbies, but Thoreau’s point was that these external pursuits will create an endless cycle of coveting for “other things”. His solution was to instead look within, to rediscover the minute things already in his life and to rediscover the “worlds within worlds”.
Deep sense of appreciation of nature. What can city-dwellers learn?
As a city-dweller, I am not privy to the sights and sounds of the big outdoors. I can’t just decide to take the weekend off and venture deep into the forest for a field trip, or take in majestic views of a mountain complete with the calm stillness of a giant lake. Thoreau had these “props” that he used to stir his curiosity; what can people who live in cities use?
We have little nature reserves and parks in Singapore that most of us will admit to visiting “many years ago”… why not give them a second try? Perhaps something new will spring out of an otherwise seemingly-boring nature reserve? Or as I would often like to think, perhaps the interactions with one another, understanding someone else’s perspective in life is enough stimulation to begin the journey into my own inner life.