Wisdom from Henry David Thoreau that I will never forget:
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. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. 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, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.
This is just one of those passages that grips me every time I come across it. Something about this language of living deep and sucking the marrow out of life is thrilling and chilling at the same time. It begs the question, am I living like this? Am I sucking all I can out of the moment? Am I living from a deep place and calling others into this kind of life as well? Am I live deliberately? The woods and the calm it brings, reminds me to continue asking these questions… to continue to seek depth and to live in the now. Worries flutter away when this becomes our motto, moment to moment, and day to day.
In the midst of this sort of thought this last weekend, I (and the two friends that went with me) made some unlikely friends. Our little cadre went to the woods for moments like this but we also ended with some great stories of love and adventure. Our new and unlikely friends practically invited themselves over to our small gathering that night. We shared conversation, questions, laughs, and bewilderment over a fire. We talked and listen for several hours as our new friends gave us a glimpse into their world. Two of them, all of seventeen… experiencing things I had never before imagined. Two of them fresh out of high school, with no foreseen understanding of their future. Three of them in their twenties and thirties… thinking this was all life had to offer. These seven faces and names are etched in my memory, as the kids on trippin’ on acid of whom I met in the woods. These seven faces and names have changed me. Their stories, jokes, and quotes will probably always stay with me.
I did not pass out tracks or quote scripture. I do not try to convert them (after all it probably wouldn’t have stuck after their “trip” was over). I did not practice words of condemnation. I listened as they explained that they do drugs for spiritual reasons. I listened as they told stories of talking to trees and mother earth. I listened as they shared stories about what brought them to do drugs. I listened as several expressed a lack of purpose in life. I listened as mother could me of her three kids and how drugs keep her sane. I listened as they spoke without filters. I listened and asked questions, and through that, I was offered a small glimpse into the hurt and pain that made tripin’ seem like the safest thing to do.
They assumed we were in the woods to do drugs as well and when we told them that wasn’t the case… it seemed like they could not wrap their minds around people coming here for any other reason. To that confusion and wonder, I offered one small bit of truth, that we came to the woods to commune with God and each other, on a level that does not often take place in the busyness of life beyond the woods.
I don’t know what (if anything) they remember of that night, but I know for me it was transformational. I learned again the beauty of sitting with people where they are at. I was again reminded of how hard it is to hear such pain and not try to step in and save the day. I got a glimpse into the world beneath… a glimpse that has changed me. All I could offer them that night was one small bit of truth, the warmth of a fire, and a community within which to process the day. I went to the woods to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.