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. -Henry David Thoreau, Walden
There are those who seek to practice life reduced to its bare essence, stripped away of deceiving pageantry and flashy façade. They mark the pages of their days with meaningful experience, prized relationships, honest prose, and an uncommon perspective earned from pain and loss – redemption and peace. Stoic and humble among the noisy hubris masses, they seek the raw path of life, quietly guided by integrity of character and inspiration of purpose.
These genuine souls, though perhaps haunted by brazen circumstance, reveal a splintered glimpse of our full potential. You know these people. Their libraries are larger than their televisions. Their vision of reality is born along the ragged trail and high atop the summit peak. They know intimately the hearts and minds of those dearest to them. They seek understanding, stillness and the simplicity of being. They do not always tread softly; often the impressions they leave are with indelible resolve. But they lead with compassion and generosity, for they understand empathy as a law of humanity.
Their material possessions offer little in the way of deep personal fulfillment. Like the master martial artist, the threadbare coveted belt is but a thing – whereas her knowledge and skill in spite of defeat holds tangible, substantive worth. Like monks and mountaineers, precious belongings offer simple sentimental, artistic and practical value. On the balancing scale of life, the fewer the possessions, the greater the sense of authentic abundance.
The treasured things in their unencumbered spaces are carefully chosen, well-maintained and mindfully revered on alters of memory and promise.
Their actions are deliberate. Thoughtfully executed with precision and poise, they honor the rhythms and cycles of nature, ebbing and flowing without judgment or pride. They strive to understand intricate complexity and thrive in the innovative discovery of efficient execution. Conservation in effort, energy and resources are paramount to all action.
Their conceptual ideas blossom from cosmic vibration and deep emotions that churn to life from the slow blue flame of contemplation. Their ideas are calligraphy strokes of clarity with endless expression, transcending journey into wisdom, thought into purposeful action. They are not without blunder or folly – indeed, they are quite practiced at failure.
Above all else, these beautiful beings accidentally inspire the rest of us. They help us to sift through the relentless steaming piles of commercial bullshit for authentic experience, personal connection and candid participation. They light up the darkness with enthusiasm, courage and humor. They confidently lead with kindness – sucking out all the marrow of life. They do it not because of some physical prowess or intellectual advantage; but because they choose to. Despite all else, they simply choose the Zen approach.
When we start with the uncompromising certainty that we are not what we possess or how we appear – but what and whom we love; when we radically accept ourselves as compassionate, contributing participants in an imperfect world; when we choose a life of substance with our perfect smiles, a little curiosity and a dash of courage, we find that we are suddenly sucking down great big gobs of life in terrifically intoxicating gulps.
Cheers to a life lived with integrity and intention.