13 December 2009
John Burroughs, naturally affirmative
Wise words from a wise man ...
"If I were to name the three most precious resources of life, I should say books, friends, and nature; and the greatest of these, at least the most constant and always at hand, is nature. Nature we always have with us, an inexhaustible storehouse of that which moves the heart, appeals to the mind, and fires the imagination – health to the body, a stimulus to the intellect, a joy to the soul. To the scientist, nature is a storehouse of facts, laws, processes; to the artist she is a storehouse of pictures; to the poet she is a storehouse of images, fancies, a source of inspiration; to the moralist she is a storehouse of precepts and parables; to all, she may be a source of knowledge and joy.
I am bound to praise the simple life, because I have lived it and found it good. When I depart from it, evil results follow. I love a small house, plain clothes, simple living. Many persons know the luxury of a skin bath – a plunge in the pool or the wave unhampered by clothing. That is the simple life – direct and immediate contact with things, life with the false wrappings torn away – the fine house, the fine equipage, the expensive habits, all cut off. How free one feels, how good the elements taste, how close one gets to them, how they fit one’s body and soul! To see the fire that warms you, or better yet, to cut the wood that feeds the fire that warms you; to see the spring where the water bubbles up that slakes your thirst and to dip your pail into it; to see the beams that are the stay of your four walls and the timbers that uphold the roof that shelters you; to be in direct and personal contact with the sources of your material life; to want no extras, no shields; to find the universal elements enough; to find the air and water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter; to find a quest of wild berries more satisfying than a gift of tropic fruit; to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wild flower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life.
For anything worth having one must pay the price; and the price is always work, patience, love, self-sacrifice - no paper currency, no promises to pay, but the gold of real service.
The secret of happiness is something to do.
Nature comes home to one most when he is at home; the stranger and traveler finds her a stranger and traveler also. One's own landscape comes in time to be a sort of outlying part of himself; he has sowed himself broadcast upon it, and it reflects his own moods and feelings; he is sensitive to the verge of the horizon: cut those trees, and he bleeds; mar those hills, and he suffers. How has the farmer planted himself in his fields; builded himself into his stone walls, and evoked the sympathy of the hills by his struggle! This home feeling, this domestication of nature, is important to the observer. This is the birdlime with which he catches the bird; this is the private door that admits him behind the scenes. I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.
One of the hardest lessons we have to learn in this life and one that many persons never learn, is to see the divine, the celestial, the pure, in the common, the near at hand - to see that heaven lies about us here in this world. Nothing relieves and ventilates the mind like a resolution.
The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are.
The lesson which life repeats and constantly enforces is 'look under foot.' You are always nearer the divine and the true sources of your power than you think.
I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see. The longer I live the more my mind dwells upon the beauty and the wonder of the world.
What is the best thing for a stream? It is to keep moving. If it stops, it stagnates. So the best thing for a man is that which keeps the currents going - the physical, the moral, and the intellectual currents. Hence the secret of happiness is - something to do; some congenial work. Take away the occupation of all men, and what a wretched world it would be! Few persons realize how much of their happiness is dependent upon their work, upon the fact that they are kept busy and not left to feed upon themselves. Happiness comes most to persons who seek her least, and think least about it. It is not an object to be sought; it is a state to be induced. It must follow and not lead. It must overtake you, and not you overtake it. How important is health to happiness, yet the best promoter of health is something to do. Blessed is the man who has some congenial work, some occupation in which he can put his heart, and which affords a complete outlet to all the forces there are in him.
How many thorns of human nature - hard, sharp, lifeless protuberances that tear and wound us, narrow prejudices, bristling conceits that repel and disgust us - are arrested developments, calcified tendencies, buds of promise that should have lifted a branch up into the sunny day with fruit; and flowers to delight the heart of men, but now all grown hard, petrified, for want of culture and a congenial soil and climate. Joy in the universe, and keen curiosity about it all - that has been my religion.
I see on a immense scale, and as clearly as in a demonstration in a laboratory, that good comes out of evil; that the impartiality of the Nature Providence is best; that we are made strong by what we overcome; that man is man because he is as free to do evil as to do good; that life is as free to develop hostile forms as to develop friendly; that power waits upon him who earns it; that disease, wars, the unloosened, devastating elemental forces have each and all played their part in developing and hardening man and giving him the heroic fiber.
It is always easier to believe than to deny. Our minds are naturally affirmative."