“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful: but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look…”
This essay entitled “Where I lived and What I Lived For” is from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden points to a wonderful koan that I believe we can appreciate as much today as brother Henry did in his time. Tomorrow is Henry David Thoreau’s birthday and though we are not related by blood I feel he is part of our clan. The title “Where I live and What I lived For” is itself the koan and what he says about it is the commentary.
I found this in a copy of Walden – it was one of the last books I gave my father before he died. It was my father’s koan “Where I lived and What I Lived For” – it is mine as well and I hope you will accept it as a gift to you on Thoreau’s birthday.
It is a marvelous practice to carve and create our own atmosphere, our own life.
To really appreciate our life and death is to carve and create our atmosphere and life. It is Genjokoan – the koan of everyday life.
photo credit: Fred Hsu