2016-2017 Live Deliberately Essay Contest
Elizabeth Hazzard, 19
Winner, 19-21 Age Group
Georgia State University
Cultivation over Conformation
The word deliberate seems like an unusual word to use as emphasis on how one should live life. Wouldn’t it seem as though one has no choice but to go through life in a deliberate manner; no choice but to live each day with intent and consciousness? I mean it would only make sense for intent and consciousness to be the very core of one’s journey through life. Yet, with our ever advancing world, people seem to live more automatic lives rather than deliberate; lives full of following routine and conforming to society’s standards. Therefore, it is refreshing to refer to the words of Thoreau as he offers essential guidance on the importance of living a deliberate life full of humanity and meaning.
In Thoreau’s first quotation, he stresses the notion of “cultivating the tree which you have found to bear fruit in your soil.” In this part of his quotation, it is important to highlight Thoreau’s word choice of the personal pronouns ‘you’ and ‘your’ as opposed to an article such as ‘the’. Here, Thoreau underlines his advice that one should go through life not with the aim of living it for others but living it for themselves. Life is given to each individual, not to groups of individuals, thus, the way one lives their life should reflect this. In this quotation, Thoreau uses a tree, soil, and fruit as a metaphoric representation of the way that one should use life to feed his or her soul; just as a farmer would invest time to cultivate a tree which bears fruit, each person should invest time nurturing whatever special thing that will cause their soul to beautifully bloom. In addition, Thoreau reminds us that the failures and successes we make throughout our lives balance out, giving us the clean slate of the present upon which we have the power to build a better future.
In Thoreau’s second quotation, we again have the reference to objects in nature, but this time Thoreau offers us a more stern guidance, in the form of a duty. Thoreau poses upon anyone who “would learn the secrets of nature” to “practice more humanity than others.” Thus, one may read this and wonder, what are the secrets of nature? Thoreau answers this question only with a hint, as he tells us that “Old trees are our parents, and our parents’ parents.” Here, Thoreau juxtaposes humans with nature in order to show that we are one with nature. Therefore, the secrets of nature are each individual; I am a secret of nature, you are a secret of nature, etc. We are nature’s secrets because in a society that constantly strives to prevent us from being unapologetically ourselves, many of us have forgotten that we can’t be anything but ourselves. Thoreau invites us to uncover this secret of remaining true to ourselves no matter what and to pass it onto others so they too will do the same.
Of course, as a young woman now, Thoreau’s quotations about living a deliberate life full of humanity and meaning inspire me to do just that. The way that I cultivate the tree which I have found to bear fruit in my soil is by shamelessly wearing my Afro. As an African American female, I have often struggled with the self-image of my hair. I have grown up in a society that shuns my tightly coiled hair texture but praises a straight, sleek hair texture. I felt forced to conform to what society deemed as beautiful, therefore, I altered my hair texture by getting it straightened. What I discovered from this event was that although I was receiving positive (as opposed to previously negative) comments about my hairstyle, I still didn’t feel truly beautiful. I came to a realization that I didn’t feel beautiful because I didn’t feel like myself; I may have finally fit society’s standards of beauty, but I didn’t fit myself. Consequently, I had to choose between my inner happiness and everyone else’s aesthetic pleasure. I chose myself, thus, began my return back to my natural hair state.
In conclusion, the kinky roots of my hair bore the fruit of inner peace within my soul and I have now blossomed into the young woman that I was meant to be. Others’ comments are no longer my focus because as Thoreau encourages us all to do, I have chosen cultivation over conformation; to be shamelessly who I am and live my life according to this.