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Where I Lived, and What I Lived For5

2006-07-29 00:04

  We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep.  I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor.  It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do.  To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.  Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour.  If we refused, or rather used up, such paltry information as we get, the oracles would distinctly inform us how this might be done.

  I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.  I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary.  I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.  For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to "glorify God and enjoy him forever."

  Still we live meanly, like ants; though the fable tells us that we were long ago changed into men; like pygmies we fight with cranes; it is error upon error, and clout upon clout, and our best virtue has for its occasion a superfluous and evitable wretchedness. Our life is frittered away by detail.  An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest.  Simplicity, simplicity,simplicity!  I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.  In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds.  Simplify, simplify.  Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion.  Our life is like a German Confederacy, made up of petty states, with its boundary forever fluctuating, so that even a German cannot tell you how it is bounded at any moment.  The nation itself, with all its so-called internal improvements, which, by the way are all external and superficial, is just such an unwieldy and overgrown establishment, cluttered with furniture and tripped up by its own traps, ruined by luxury and heedless expense, by want of calculation and a worthy aim, as the million households in the land; and the only cure for it, as for them, is in a rigid economy, a stern and more than Spartan simplicity of life and elevation of purpose.  It lives too fast.  Men think that it is essential that the Nation have commerce, and export ice, and talk through a telegraph, and ride thirty miles an hour, without a doubt, whether they do or not; but whether we should live like baboons or like men, is a little uncertain.  If we do not get out sleepers, and forge rails, and devote days and nights to the work, but go to tinkering upon our lives to improve them, who will build railroads?  And if railroads are not built, how shall we get to heaven in season?  But if we stay at home and mind our business, who will want railroads?  We do not ride on the railroad; it rides upon us.  Did you ever think what those sleepers are that underlie the railroad?  Each one is a man,an Irishman, or a Yankee man.  The rails are laid on them, and they are covered with sand, and the cars run smoothly over them.  They are sound sleepers, I assure you.  And every few years a new lot is laid down and run over; so that, if some have the pleasure of riding on a rail, others have the misfortune to be ridden upon.  And when they run over a man that is walking in his sleep, a supernumerary sleeper in the wrong position, and wake him up, they suddenly stop the cars, and make a hue and cry about it, as if this were an exception.  I am glad to know that it takes a gang of men for every five miles to keep the sleepers down and level in their beds as it is, for this is a sign that they may sometime get up again.

  我们必须学会再苏醒,更须学会保持清醒而不再昏睡,但不能用机械的方法,而应寄托无穷的期望于黎明,就在最沉的沉睡中,黎明也不会抛弃我们的。我没有看到过更使人振奋的事实了,人类无疑是有能力来有意识地提高他自己的生命的。能画出某一张画,雕塑出某一个肖像,美化某几个对象,是很了不起的;但更加荣耀的事是能够塑造或画出那种氛围与媒介来,从中能使我们发现,而且能使我们正当地有所为。能影响当代的本质的,是最高的艺术。每人都应该把最崇高的和紧急时刻内他所考虑到的做到,使他的生命配得上他所想的,甚至小节上也配得上。如果我们拒绝了,或者说虚耗了我们得到的这一点微不足道的思想,神示自会清清楚楚地把如何做到这一点告诉我们的。

  我到林中去,因为我希望谨慎地生活,只面对生活的基本事实,看看我是否学得到生活要教育我的东西,免得到了临死的时候,才发现我根本就没有生活过。我不希望度过非生活的生活,生活是这样的可爱;我却也不愿意去修行过隐逸的生活,除非是万不得已。我要生活得深深地把生命的精髓都吸到,要生活得稳稳当当,生活得斯巴达式的,以便根除一切非生活的东西,划出一块刈割的面积来,细细地刈割或修剪,把生活压缩到一个角隅里去,把它缩小到最低的条件中,如果它被证明是卑微的,那末就把那真正的卑微全部认识到,并把它的卑微之处公布于世界;或者,如果它是崇高的,就用切身的经历来体会它,在我下一次远游时,也可以作出一个真实的报道。因为,我看,大多数人还确定不了他们的生活是属于魔鬼的,还是属于上帝的呢,然而又多少有点轻率地下了判断,认为人生的主要目标是“归荣耀于神,并永远从神那里得到喜悦”。

  然而我们依然生活得卑微,像蚂蚁;虽然神话告诉我们说,我们早已经变成人了;像小人国里的人,我们和长脖子仙鹤作战;这真是错误之上加错误,脏抹布之上更抹脏:我们最优美的德性在这里成了多余的本可避免的劫数。我们的生活在琐碎之中消耗掉了。

  一个老实的人除十指之外,便用不着更大的数字了,在特殊情况下也顶多加上十个足趾,其余不妨笼而统之。简单,简单,简单啊!我说,最好你的事只两件或三件,不要一百件或一千件;不必计算一百万,半打不是够计算了吗,总之,账目可以记在大拇指甲上就好了。在这浪涛滔天的文明生活的海洋中,一个人要生活,得经历这样的风暴和流沙和一千零一种事变,除非他纵身一跃,直下海底,不要作船位推算去安抵目的港了,那些事业成功的人,真是伟大的计算家啊。简单化,简单化!不必一天三餐,如果必要,一顿也够了;不要百道菜,五道够多了;至于别的,就在同样的比例下来减少好了。我们的生活像德意志联邦,全是小邦组成的。联邦的边界永在变动,甚至一个德国人也不能在任何时候把边界告诉你。国家是有所谓内政的改进的,实际上它全是些外表的,甚至肤浅的事务,它是这样一种不易运用的生长得臃肿庞大的机构,壅塞着家具,掉进自己设置的陷阱,给奢侈和挥霍毁坏完了,因为它没有计算,也没有崇高的目标,好比地面上的一百万户人家一样;对于这种情况,和对于他们一样,惟一的医疗办法是一种严峻的经济学,一种严峻得更甚于斯巴达人的简单的生活,并提高生活的目标。生活现在是太放荡了。人们以为国家必须有商业,必须把冰块出口,还要用电报来说话,还要一小时驰奔三十英里,毫不怀疑它们有没有用处;但是我们应该生活得像狒狒呢,还是像人,这一点倒又确定不了。如果我们不做出枕木来,不轧制钢轨,不日夜工作,而只是笨手笨脚地对付我们的生活,来改善它们,那末谁还想修筑铁路呢?如果不造铁路,我们如何能准时赶到天堂去哪?可是,我们只要住在家里,管我们的私事,谁还需要铁路呢?我们没有来坐铁路,铁路倒乘坐了我们。你难道没有想过,铁路底下躺着的枕木是什么?每一根都是一个人,爱尔兰人,或北方佬。铁轨就铺在他们身上,他们身上又铺起了黄沙,而列车平滑地驰过他们。我告诉你,他们真是睡得熟呵。每隔几年,就换上了一批新的枕木,车辆还在上面奔驰着;如果一批人能在铁轨之上愉快地乘车经过,必然有另一批不幸的人是在下面被乘坐被压过去的。当我们奔驰过了一个梦中行路的人,一根出轨的多余的枕木,他们只得唤醒他,突然停下车子,吼叫不已,好像这是一个例外。我听到了真觉得有趣,他们每五英里路派定了一队人,要那些枕木长眠不起,并保持应有的高低,由此可见,他们有时候还是要站起来的。

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