LeviathanApril 2, 2020
After a long conversation with an old friend the other night, having reconnected since, you know, Covid and all, my friend gave me a challenge. Assuming, as Andy Foster said on the Fish yesterday, that we need to think about how the post-Covid world is going to be different from the pre-Covid world, then my friend challenged me to think about: what do I want to do with the rest of my life? What are my top 10 things to accomplish in my remaining years (who knows – maybe months? weeks? days?!) on planet Earth?
That’s a pretty big ask for anyone to think about – and I thought I’d throw it open to all of you rather than just spout off myself – but assuming that indeed, everything changes, then I’ve got to change too. How? Why? but most importantly – What?
OK – seeing as its my turn, I’ll start off: I’d like to write a book. Caveat: one that people would like to read. Clearly therefore, that means not the book of the blog, as that’s already online and little read. How to write the next Harry Potter?
In the mean time, and because it is my friend’s favourite text to quote, here’s a little bit by Henry Thoreau, on Solitude, from Walden, about life down in his hut on Walden Pond.
“Men frequently say to me, “I should think you would feel lonesome down there, and want to be nearer to folks, rainy and snowy days and nights especially.” I am tempted to reply to such – This whole earth which we inhabit is but a point in space. How far apart, think you, dwell the two most distant inhabitants of yonder star, the breadth of whose disk cannot be appreciated by our instruments? Why should I feel lonely? is not our planet in the Milky Way? This which you put seems to me not to be the most important question. What sort of space is that which separates a man from his fellow and makes him solitary? I have found that no exertion of the legs can bring two minds much nearer to one another. What do we want most to dwell near to? Not to many men surely, the depot, the post-office, the bar-room, the meeting-house, the school-house, the grocery, Beacon Hill, or the Five Points, where men most congregate, but to the perennial source of our life, whence in all our experience we have found that to issue, as the willow stands near the water and sends out its roots in that direction.”
“We are the subjects of an experiment which is not a little interesting to me. Can we not do without the society of our gossips a little while under these circumstances – have our own thoughts to cheer is? Confucius says truly, “Virtue does not remain as an abandoned orphan; it must of necessity have neighbours.” “
“With thinking we may be beside ourselves in a sane sense. By a conscious effort of the mind we can stand aloof from actions and their consequences; and all things, good and bad, go by us like a torrent. We are not wholly involved in Nature. I may be either the driftwood in the stream, or Indra in the sky looking down on it…”