I recently just spent about two weeks with my wife in New England. We traveled through Providence, RD; Boston, Mass; Portsmouth, NH; and Portland, MN. I was struck by the history of the area, where here in California things really only go about 50 years back before they get remodeled or replaced. We went to Concord and saw the place where the shot heard round the world took place, to start off the Revolution. We went to Walden Pond. We went to Emerson’s house and looked at his personal collection of books, which still held his liner notes. We went to the Old Manse where Emerson and Hawthorne lived. There was so much history and culture here, but it’s just the memory of history and culture.
These things only matter to those who care.
What would visiting the Old Manse matter to someone who had never heard of Transcendentalism? What would visiting this old decrepit house matter to someone who had never been blown away by Hawthorne’s beautiful prose?
These places made me sit back and contemplate on what we as a society are doing. Are we moving forward? Are we towing the line? Are we causing problems for our future generations?
There are two stories which struck me and have weighed heavily on my mind, one of which was told to my wife and I in the Old Manse and the other happened at a seminar I attended for my day job.
While we were in the Old Manse the tour guide told us a story in which Waldo Emerson wrote “Nature” at a desk which faced the window looking out at his garden and the woods beyond. He did so because it inspired him. A few years later Hawthorne moved into the house and tried writing at the same desk as Emerson did. But he found that nature was far to distracting for him, so he had a desk build which faced a wall, to eliminate those distractions. Here he wrote “Mosses from an Old Manse”.
The seminar I attended was about education and what people (specifically young people) needed to succeed in the world after school. I was on a panel with adults ranging from their late twenties to their early sixties and resoundingly I heard that the younger generations had no etiquette. They had no sense of responsibility. They had no attention span. Ostensibly, that “these kids have no respect.”
I listened and in turns was disgusted and agreeable. I think that some of these people didn’t realize how young I was and I think I held a unique perspective to them. I have encountered many young people who have respect. I have encountered many people who have a sense of responsibility, who have an attention span. I have also encountered many older people who have no respect, have no sense of responsibility nor respect.
There’s a lot to be said for people who spend the time and develop themselves. Take responsibility for themselves and I don’t think that the younger generations are given enough respect themselves. It is true that most people take the road more traveled. They want to live easily, they don’t want any hardships, they don’t take responsibility for the hardships which do occur in their lives. Yet there are those who embrace their lives and strive for their dreams. These people take the road less traveled and they grow and become more empathetic and wise and respectful.
I think the story of Emerson and Hawthorne is apropos to this story because Emerson wanted a space where he could be inspired by nature. Instead of complaining that there were too many distractions (for Hawthorne is was the garden and the animals and the forest, for me and my generation it is the internet and cell phones, Hawthorne decided to make a change for what he needed and made strides to make it happen.
There are always distractions. There are always diversions. It doesn’t matter if you live now, 50 years earlier or 150 years earlier. It doesn’t matter what type of phone, or computer, or car, or yard, or television you may have. There is no easy road to get to your dreams, no matter what those dreams are. But if you chance it, if you take that first step through the brush, you just might find the right path to your dreams.
The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellowed wood/And sorry I could not travel both/And be one traveler, long I stood/And looked down one as far as I could/To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair/And having perhaps the better claim,/Because it was grassy and wanted wear;/Though as for that the passing there/Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay/in leaves no step had trodden black./Oh, I kept the first for another day!/Yet knowing how way leads on to way,/I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh/Somewhere ages and ages hense:/Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-/I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.