I normally publish one or two essays every week, without fail. But, not lately. Part of that’s because I’ve taken on new work, but the overwhelming reason is due to a recent realization, which I’d like to share with you.
Author, philosopher, naturalist, Henry D. Thoreau once wrote,
“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..”
In summary, he took a break from civilization, to discover in his opinion, the essence of life. While I love hiking in the outdoors, and the concept of retreating to a little hut in the woods is a profoundly romantic idea, it’s not a practical solution to life’s many responsibilities: family, professional, etc. Thus, I’ve been searching widely for an alternate method of achieving Thoreau’s self-actualized tranquility.
I am my own woods, of sorts. Between my ears is a vast wilderness filled with peaks, valleys, sprawling trails, and unexplored paths. So frequently do I find myself searching externally for answers, that I rarely, if ever take time to honestly ask myself: “Who am I, really?"
As cliché as it is, I find that by sitting quietly for just fifteen minutes, and focusing on that question, I’m able to totally silence my inner chatter. What I realized is that, I’m the foundation of my life. In other words, everything I ever do, see, or experience, will initially be viewed from my perspective. So, to “know thyself”, becomes an extraordinarily valuable insight, if you wish to view yourself in the context of the universe as a whole.
In Bruce Lee’s writings, I came across his idea of “the root”. To know yourself, you must return to your roots. When you pull weeds, you dig to the root. And, if you’re Bruce Lee, and want to master martial arts, or any skill for that matter, where should you start? The roots.
To become a chess master, you have to spend hours analyzing “end games”, consisting of very few pieces, to gain a fundamental feel for how the pieces affect each other. That way, when more variables are added, you can trust those instincts. Another example of this is found in cooking. World class chefs take chemistry classes to understand the molecular components of their ingredients, and use this base knowledge to dream up new dishes.
So, why then when it comes to our own life, the very vehicle of our consciousness, are we so quick look externally, to subscribe to the latest diet, get-rich-quick book, or spiritual guru, for answers? Why not build a foundation to master the self?
Writing with purpose
I want to express myself now more than anything, and resisting my urge to publish in the past weeks has been wearing. I always have things I want to say. But lately, I’ve been questioning whether or not my words align with who I am as a person. If you believe that all art is an expression of the self, then making art for the sake of art isn’t the answer. What I want is to figure out, is what that soft voice inside of me, really wants to communicate.
My life and work are the products of my thoughts. To more authentically communicate my message, I’ve needed some time, and will continue to search inwardly for answers. You can only publish Walden if you go to the woods.
Who are you?
So now, I turn the question back on you. Who, reader, are you? What’s your message? And how will you communicate it with the world?