"In short, all good things are wild and free" - Thoreau
When I read those lines in Thoreau’s essay, “Walking”, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at its candor. I’ve heard this quote many times before, but the truth didn't sink in until that moment. Such fiercely wise words written, it seems, rather nonchalantly as Thoreau perfectly summarizes his previous paragraphs on the overwhelming truth found in Nature.
The concept that anything good, right, or truthful is both wild and free, is difficult to ignore. If you believe them, the words seep into your life and inevitably change you.
Today I was looking outside my living room window, watching folks walk by - tourists and perhaps some locals on their way home from running errands - and I dreamt of what our world would look like if we all lived more wild and free. For a moment I wished everyone would find that truth and live it. I then realized that it's no good pinning wishes upon other people that I haven’t yet experienced for myself.
So where to begin? Should I go jump out of a plane? Scale a mountain? Perhaps. However, living more wildly and freely is being honest about where I need to inject that concept into my life right now.
I think I'll start with how I speak to myself. Yes, it is a small beginning, but it is one I can consciously work on. Self-talk, our thoughts about ourselves, are mightier than we may understand. Does my self-talk inspire freedom or hold me captive? For example: when I make a mistake, my initial reaction is to call myself an idiot, tell myself I'm so stupid, etc. I do it all the time! However, I have to realize that the mistake does not define me, but the words I call myself do. Instead of perceiving the situation as one that characterizes me negatively, I will try to look at it differently. Okay - so I messed up, and I will have to deal with those consequences. It happens. However, I’m a (fairly) smart and capable person, and smart people learn from their mistakes. Nothing negative, nothing self deprecating. Only words of freedom, which allow me to improve and live better.
Inviting wildness and freedom into our lives will not be easy. It'll take an incredibly conscious effort that may be tiring, but it's necessary if we desire more goodness. I hope that you will find your own wild, your own free. Personally, I think it’s quite the wild undertaking to change the way we think about ourselves.
First mindfulness, then bungee jumping.
P.S. You can read the entire “Walking” essay (for free!) here.