What do you live for?

Most of us meander through life without ever really asking this question. We let life lead us where it will. Yet there are a few enlightened individuals amongst us, who not only know what they want but they know that no amount of material wealth and comfort will quench their thirst for knowledge and truth. Such people are in search of truth of the highest order.  Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862) was one such person; an American author, poet, philosopher and an activist. He is best known for his book Walden a reflection on back to the basics ideology which he promoted throughout his life.

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Walden Pond – Concord, Massachusetts

Walden Pond is a scenic and peaceful lake in Concord, Massachusetts said to have been formed by retreating glaciers thousands of years ago. Every time, I visit this lake, I revel in the secret hope that I am probably walking the same path, breathing the same air, and feasting my eyes on the same beauty that once made Thoreau fall in love. “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads”, said Thoreau of Walden Pond.

Thoreau needed to concentrate on his writing which is why he decided to embark on a two year and two month experiment at “simple living” near Walden Pond in the summer of 1845.  An account which Thoreau records extensively in his book “Walden, Life in the woods”. He believed that truth can be found in literature or in nature. He himself obtained pleasures as much in the ringing of the church bells as in the hooting of the owls or the croaking of the frogs. In his book, Thoreau mentions he took to the woods because he wanted a life away from social obligations and social relationships that “mail (or post office)” represent. I cannot help but wonder what he would say if he were to visit our lives today where a cellphone has almost become a part of human anatomy? Or what would he have to say to us all who happily over dose on social media and the World Wide Web on a daily basis but never find a moment for introspection or self-reflection?

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A replica of Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond

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Thoreau spared himself the very basic amenities which he has disclosed in his book Walden

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A statue of Thoreau outside the cabin

Thoreau persisted in simplifying his life and believed inner peace and contentment cannot be found in material goods. The replica of the wooden cabin where he spared himself the most basic of amenities to sustain human life is testimony to his simple life. Although today his book is considered to be a signature book on the preservationist way of life, in its day it only sold about 2000 copies in five years. Today we know Thoreau as one of the foremost American writers famous for his prose, style and views on nature and politics. His views on politics and especially his philosophy of civil disobedience was said to have influenced and inspired notable figures such as Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

In his book Walden, Thoreau mentions, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

He then continues to explain exactly what he truly wanted out of life with these super charged words,

“I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience.”

I can’t help but feel charged by these powerful words of a man who truly wanted nothing less than the absolute truth and was willing to pay a price for it. What is truly impressive about great human beings like Thoreau is not simply the depth and honesty of their beliefs but the courage and conviction to follow their dreams no matter where it may take them.

Thoreau in his own words said,

“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.”

Walden: Or, Life in the Woods (Above Quote Courtesy of: https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2361393-walden)

Photo challenge: Endurance

Some of these pictures are from Hampi a village in Northern Karnataka – India, said to have been built around AD 1336-1570. As you can see the craftsmanship on these artifacts is intricate and unique and has stood the wrath of time warranting to be called signature specimens of the timelessness of art.

An ode to my sister

sistersTwo circles traced in the sand by a wistful finger,
Half burned candle forever stuck inside grandma’s candle holder,
A pair of reading glasses resting on your dog-eared copy of Wuthering Heights,
A balmy conversation shared over a hearty meal of vegetable kofta and rice,
Something’s are just meant to go together; like a thread through the needle’s eye.

You and me only a few years apart. “Why did I follow” you ask?
How else would I lay claim on all your childhood toys, even your one-eyed
plastic doll the one whose eye you filled out with a black felt pen.
We were four braided pig tails, four blinking eyes, two impish heads lying side by side staring at the ceiling, wondering how we could cover it with the star studded sky.

Do you remember those endless nights rehearsing your Shakespearean school play? “To be or not to be”, was never a question you asked again. You always knew what you wanted, even when you said “I have no clue”, and how often you said it too? The sturdy doll house you built for me out of cardboard and keen imagination. No scissors and glue can build a childhood haunt that sturdy. I still owe you a “thank you”.

You saved the few shillings we got for pocket money in some piggy bank hidden far out of sight. Yet you always had enough to buy us a treat after school; an ice-cream for you and candies for me. And on the way back home you would share stories you read in class. And oh the stories you would conjure, I soared like a bird in each one.

We crawled on our knees raiding Tutenkhamen’s grave in our mere wall-papered bedroom, and sailed the lost city of Atlantis in our bath tub using spoons for oars. The street lamp outside our room shone brighter than full moon through the wooden slats of our window shutters,
throwing silver ribbons of light that always guided us safely back to home. We were savages who plundered books for adventure. Imagination is an endless playground for the young.

Adventure we found like all who grow up to live their life. We were two circles traced in the sand; delicate and precious. Like sugar cookies cut out of the same dough. Something’s are just meant to go together, dear sister, so I followed you into life like a thread through a needle’s eye.

Antelope Run

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An eclectic collection of wild synergism
touted on blackened walls for cigar smoking gallery-goers.
Giant heads of antelope Gods that were once awake to mortal earth.
Now a priceless collection of the dead bearing grave witness to herds
of timeless gazelles flocked around a thinning lake under a Ponderosa pine.

These Artful even-toed antelopes outrunning a riled tiger; a mortal chase of the hunter and the hunted. Anything is game. Dust rises, dirt settles, a daily
test of brawn’s against keen feet. The winner wins life, the bloodied succumbs.
Smell of thorny trees and raw flesh drags its pungent feet across the forest in heat. Whilst the king of the jungle stretches for a sleepy reprieve tired of the macabre dance. The grass is too thin and dry to cloak life. The herds of antelopes have long since dispersed like the smell of prey in the wind. From a distance a sharp hunter fires his aim; eye of the tiger. Obliterating
traces of “how”, “when”, “what” and “if”. This is nature at its wildest, the winner wins life and the loser take its place on the wall; a prized possession.

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