Friday, April 7, 2017
100 Reflections: The Sages of Concord #2
I think that it is fair to say that discovering Henry David Thoreau’s writings has had a major impact on my life. There has been hardly a week, hardly a day since, when I have not thought about something Henry wrote.
Of course, this is, in part, due to the tremendous influence his writings have had on the world. Someone who influences Gandhi, King and Tolstoy has to influence the rest of us in some way, whether or not we are aware of it. I remember reading quotes of his on the subways and buses of Brooklyn and Manhattan. I saw posters and heard songs about people who were traveling “to the beat of a different drum.” I was assigned readings from Walden in community college which I interpreted, rightly or wrongly, as an encouragement to drop out. When tempted to beat myself up, psychologically, for never having made it to Europe, I have always remembered that Thoreau wrote, proudly, that he had “…travelled widely in Concord,” and remembered, also, that I have traveled widely in New England and North America, whether or not I have been able to muster the same depth of observation, musing or recording of those travels.
I see Thoreau’s influence as a major strand in the cord of my life; much as my thirty year experience with Quakers has been a major strand. In fact, it’s altogether possible that, if he had not planted the seeds of “simplicity, simplicity,” in my high school brain, I might never have appreciated the witness of Friends. I might not have even discovered them. I see both discoveries as among the great blessings of my life.
Is there another strand? I think there are several. But, looking back, I see a lot of loneliness and a search for love and community.
And, then, there is my father.
Prologue: from Lonely Road