On Fields O’er which the Reaper’s Hand has Passed by Henry David Thoreau
On fields o’er which the reaper’s hand has pass’d
Lit by the harvest moon and autumn sun,
My thoughts like stubble floating in the wind
And of such fineness as October airs,
There after harvest could I glean my life
A richer harvest reaping without toil,
And weaving gorgeous fancies at my will
In subtler webs than finest summer haze.
What is it in your life, in this world or beyond that calls forth your finest thoughts? Is it stories of great men or women who overcame the enormous gravity of mediocrity? Or perhaps the simplest revelation of nature’s many beauties? Is it time alone with Bach’s heavenly Suite for Solo Cello in G Major – Prelude or maybe time shared with friends while savoring Caciocavallo Podolico, the only cheese in Italy which is not, and cannot by definition be, industrially-produced?
Our lives are filled with influences that will, if allowed, produce mediocre thoughts. The trouble with mediocre thoughts is that they tend to generate mediocre actions. There is an old alchemical principle worth noting here: “As above, so below.” Your thoughts are higher than your actions in the sense that thought precedes action. Finer thought, therefore, generates finer action.
Some actions may come with little forethought, as with habitual or instinctive reactions, but living a reasoned life – especially in today’s day and age – requires the ability to think finely in coarse situations.
Excellence is nothing more than the finest thing in the room. It is a relative thing and as such excellence is available to everyone in any situation. You can hold an external standard in mind to assist you in your quest for finer thoughts, but ultimately it comes down to you. It matters not what another would do were he or she in your boots, what would, better yet, what should you do?
When conversation turns south, do you fly along unquestioningly like a migrating goose? When your spirits are low, do you allow thoughts of desperation, impotence or perhaps despair to corrupt your mind? When a friend asks: “Are you feeling well?” does your mind turn easily from rosy, productive thoughts to lesser things that may not even be true of you in that moment?
If so, you have some work to do. Your mind is a remarkable instrument that, properly used, can rise to produce precious and wonderful thoughts that are perfect for the occasion. Think about your life and ask yourself when you did your most creative, constructive, salient thinking. If it was only in the past, why? What changed?
If it is now, well, kudos! You’re on the right track. Your mind – if you’ll pardon the cliché – is a terrible thing to waste. Exercise it rightly, feed it well, reveal excellence where you would normally settle for mediocrity and your world – our world – will change for the better.