Monday, February 20, 2012

a dose of Thoreau

(I wrote this for school, and I do not embrace transcendentalist views. However, there are certain aspects that intrigue me, so I thought I'd share this with you.)


        Henry David Thoreau said of his Walden Pond Experiment, “I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” In other words, Thoreau is saying that if someone has imagined a life, and worked towards what he has imagined and dreamed, he will come upon success, but not necessarily success in wealth; success in life.
Thoreau, I believe, is saying through this quote that we ought not choose life paths that will only satisfy us in wealth. Wealth, though desirable, is not enough to satisfy any human. It is important to look at your dreams, what you have imagined as an enjoyable and successful place in life. For many, this is not necessarily an occupation that earns millions of dollars, but instead an occupation where you help others. Thoreau also hints to the fact that everyone has imagined a life they would like to live. Take what you have imagined and work towards it. Don’t give up on it. Doing what others expect of you may not always be your dream, and he says that we should endeavor to live that imagined life and make it a reality. When Thoreau says, “a success unexpected”, you must first find what an expected success would be. For many in our culture now and in ages past,  wealth is the expected success. When you think success, you think wealth: having plenty of everything you need, and everything you want. An unexpected success would be a certain happiness, a joy, that can be found in selfless ways. 
Some may take Thoreau’s quote to mean that if we follow our dreams, we will get everything we could dream of. For example, if I really want to be an actress, and I work hard and give my all to that dream, I will someday become a famous actress whose name is known throughout the world. But as mentioned earlier, that is an expected success. 
I have many interests. When people ask me about college and my future, I honestly don’t know what to say because I don’t know the answer! Thoreau’s quote is very meaningful to me personally because I know that in my life, it would be impossible to fulfill other people’s desires for me. I am sure that many of my relatives have different expectations and different ideas of how I will be when I graduate high-school. However, I do know that I have dreams and I can see myself some day being a woman of God whose life is an encouragement to others. For me to work towards that, I have given my best to work at school and to truly learn what I am taught because I know it will come in handy some day in my life. I try to be a good friend, and good sister, a good daughter. I know I will never be a perfect human, but that doesn’t mean I should abandon my dreams. I do not want to be a success in someone else’s eyes. The world has a distorted view of success. For me, success is realizing what you have been blessed with, and learning how to share the joy received from those blessings. So for my life, I will work towards my dreams with a hope of that unexpected success. 
There have been many times in my life when I have been tempted to follow in someone else’s footstep because I admire them. Whenever I tried that, it never felt right because it wasn’t the path meant for me. Those words of Thoreau will definitely stick in my mind. I am slowly learning that I am an individual, and though I can make certain aspects or traits of mine similar to someone I admire, I can never be like them completely. I am still me. His words are encouraging, and I feel a sense of strength coming from them.
There is also the classic story of someone whose family wants him or her to become a lawyer, or doctor, or study something that will not only bring a large income but give them a higher social status in life. Those people who are constantly working towards fulfilling other people’s dreams are rarely ever successful, in the unexpected sense Thoreau means. Instead, they may be wealthy and have the desired social status, but lack a good family life. Are they satisfied with their life? Probably not, deep down. Though it is always good to take the advice of others you trust, as Thoreau said, follow your dreams, not someone else’s. 
Thoreau words things so well, and it is hard to try to paraphrase what he has said because it is already so well written. “I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” He says to advance confidently. His choice of words communicates that this is an action. Advancing is not standing still. We are to work and progress confidently, with hope, towards the dreams. Endeavor to live a life which you have imagined, not that others have imagined for you. Expected success is not desired. Unexpected success is.


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