"However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poor-house. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the alms-house as brightly as from the rich man's abode; the snows melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace."
--Henry David Thoreau, from Walden, or Life in the Woods
Thoreau knew how mean life could be. He was 44 years old when he died of tuberculosis in 1862. He never made any money as a writer during his brief lifetime. To write his first book, he went and lived alone in the woods for two years, in a small cabin that belonged to a friend by a pond called Walden. I'm sure some of Thoreau's friends tried to talk him out of it. I can almost hear them saying "In a hundred years, who will care?"
I first read Walden when I was a teenager. In it I found answers to questions I'd never been able to ask anyone, mainly because I didn't know any other writers. By that time I was so disgusted with school that I would have jumped in front of a speeding truck before I'd ask an English teacher something.
Thoreau's work was not particularly kind. His truths were painful. He didn't mince words, or bother to suck up to anyone, even the people who might have helped him. Shrewd and blunt as he was, he reached a part of me no adult ever had, and changed a surly kid's despair into determination. And Henry, it's been one hundred and forty-five years, but I still care.
That's all from my corner of the writing world this week, folks. Got any questions for me?