2013-2014 Live Deliberately Essay Contest
In Walden, Henry David Thoreau writes that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation…” As I walk across campus, it pains me to notice that many hide behind a mask, a smile, a laugh, guarding themselves just so others do not see the desperate reality of their “todays.” Reaching for the dreams of tomorrow, they cannot enjoy the present moment. In their pursuit of the “American Dream,” they appear to agree with Thoreau’s belief in the “ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor,” but few find it encouraging, as he did, on their journey to “the top.”
The root, I believe, comes in a misconception of “the top.” At my high school graduation, the principal wished us luck as we entered the “real world,” but now, professors apply lessons to a “real world” yet to come. Students around me lag in sleep as they consciously—or semi-consciously—endeavor to improve a reality that society claims they have yet to reach.
I simply cannot accept this. My fellow man, my brother, like doomed Sisyphus struggling to push a boulder uphill, makes the present his boulder and tomorrow the unreachable top. I call this “fruitless improvement.” I have found, however, that man can truly “elevate his life” by the “conscious endeavor” to appreciate the realities surrounding him in the current moment.
A friend of mine recently shared with me his bitterness towards the seemingly frivolous “busy-work” he does in high school. Throughout our conversation, I noticed that he continually spoke negatively of his current state, yet fantasized about the “greener pastures” of college. “It’s your senior year!” I appealed, “It only happens once!” He replied with many “yeah, buts.” I had heard this many times from my own peers just last year. Therefore, in the spirit of Thoreau, I took him to a local park for a walk.
I asked him what he saw:
I asked him what he heard:
I asked him what he felt:
“Wind,” and as he broke a twig, “Life.”
“What was that last one?”
“Life. I feel life.” Up until this point of the walk he had rambled on in a bitter monologue, only pausing to answer my interjections. Then, however, his rant ended, like a storm breaking apart as the sun bursts through, and nature continued its life-giving song, always present, always singing, shining through the dark clouds as Thoreau’s “morning star.”
When I consciously endeavor to make “today” something worth living, leaving tomorrow to worry about itself, I can better say that, in any circumstance, I live deliberately. This not only elevates my life, but it elevates the lives of those around me. I believe Thoreau sums up how I consciously endeavor to improve life and make a difference when he writes in Walden, “In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to improve the nick of time…to stand on the meeting of two eternities…which is precisely the present moment.”