“To Be Born Free”

My copy of Walden and Other Writings by Henry David Thoreau.

“What is it to be born free and not to live free?”

Henry David Thoreau asks this question in his very interesting essay Life Without Principle. After reading this, the quote has resonated with me as I began to realize how relevant it actually is. Here’s something I wrote a few weeks back about the subject.

Right now we are free. We have the power to change our lives at any moment. We could quit our job, buy a plane ticket, and be halfway around the world by tomorrow morning if we were really that unhappy with our current life. Yet most of the time we don’t. Maybe doing something like this isn’t the wisest idea, but we have the power to. We could, if we really wanted it.

Although flying to the other side of the planet is a radical example, it illustrates a truth. If we are unhappy with our lives, we can change. And should.

Yet a lot of the time we do what Thoreau pointed out, we don’t “live free.” Sometimes it’s because we’re enslaved by what we desire, put in shackles by the ghosts of what we think we want. What are these things most people are preoccupied with? Money, status, connections. But these are merely mirages that fade away with eternity. Meanwhile, we put aside the things that resist the tarnish of age- love, kindness, the joy of new experiences. We leave them for another day when we’ve acquired the glory of this world.

But what is this “glory” and why do we want it so badly? It’s been shown time and time again that tragedy dawns when we’re overflowing with an abundance of all we have hoped for, but starving for the things our souls exist for.

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