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瓦尔登湖:经济篇4

2006-07-28 18:13

  When we consider what, to use the words of the catechism, is the chief end of man, and what are the true necessaries and means of life, it appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode of living because they preferred it to any other.  Yet they honestly think there is no choice left.  But alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear.  It is never too late to give up our prejudices.  No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof.  What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true to-day may turn out to be falsehood to-morrow,mere smoke of opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would sprinkle fertilizing rain on their fields.  What old people say you cannot do, you try and find that you can.  Old deeds for old people,and new deeds for new.  Old people did not know enough once,perchance, to fetch fresh fuel to keep the fire a-going; new people put a little dry wood under a pot, and are whirled round the globe with the speed of birds, in a way to kill old people, as the phrase is.  Age is no better, hardly so well, qualified for an instructor as youth, for it has not profited so much as it has lost.  One may almost doubt if the wisest man has learned anything of absolute value by living.  Practically, the old have no very important advice to give the young, their own experience has been so partial, and their lives have been such miserable failures, for private reasons,as they must believe; and it may be that they have some faith left which belies that experience, and they are only less young than they were.  I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors.  They have told me nothing, and probably cannot tell me anything to the purpose.  Here is life, an experiment to a great extent untried by me; but it does not avail me that they have tried it.  If I have any experience which I think valuable, I am sure to reflect that this my Mentors said nothing about.

  One farmer says to me, "You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make bones with"; and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying his system with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle.  Some things are really necessaries of life in some circles, the most helpless and diseased,which in others are luxuries merely, and in others still are entirely unknown.

  The whole ground of human life seems to some to have been gone over by their predecessors, both the heights and the valleys, and all things to have been cared for.  According to Evelyn, "the wise Solomon prescribed ordinances for the very distances of trees; and the Roman praetors have decided how often you may go into your neighbor's land to gather the acorns which fall on it without trespass, and what share belongs to that neighbor."  Hippocrates has even left directions how we should cut our nails; that is, even with the ends of the fingers, neither shorter nor longer.  Undoubtedly the very tedium and ennui which presume to have exhausted the variety and the joys of life are as old as Adam.  But man's capacities have never been measured; nor are we to judge of what he can do by any precedents, so little has been tried.  Whatever have been thy failures hitherto, "be not afflicted, my child, for who shall assign to thee what thou hast left undone?"

  当我们用教义问答法的方式,思考着什么是人生的宗旨,什么是生活的真正的必需品与资料时,仿佛人们还曾审慎从事地选择了这种生活的共同方式,而不要任何别的方式似的。其实他们也知道,舍此而外,别无可以挑选的方式。但清醒健康的人都知道,太阳终古常新。抛弃我们的偏见,是永远不会来不及的。无论如何古老的思想与行为,除非有确证,便不可以轻信。在今天人人附和或以为不妨默认的真理,很可能在明天变成虚无缥缈的氤氲,但还会有人认为是乌云,可以将一阵甘霖洒落到大地上来。把老头子认为办不到的事来试办一下,你往往办成功了。老人有旧的一套,新人有新的一套。

  古人不知添上燃料便可使火焰不灭:新人却把干柴放在水壶底下:谚语说得好:“气死老头子”,现在的人还可以绕着地球转,迅疾如飞鸟呢。老年人,虽然年纪一把,未必能把年轻的一代指导得更好,甚至他们未必够得上资格来指导;因为他们虽有不少收获,却也已大有损失。我们可以这样怀疑,即使最聪明的人,活了一世,他又能懂得多少生活的绝对价值呢。实际上,老年人是不会有什么极其重要的忠告给予年轻人的。他们的经验是这样地支离破碎,他们的生活已经是这样地惨痛的失败过了,他们必须知道大错都是自己铸成的;也许,他们还保留若干信心,这与他们的经验是不相符合的,却可惜他们已经不够年轻了。我在这星球上生活了三十来年,还没有听到过老长辈们一个字,可谓有价值的,堪称热忱的忠告的。他们什么也没告诉过我,也许他们是不能告诉我什么中肯的意见了。这里就是生命,一个试验,它的极大部分我都没有体验过;老年人体验过了,但却于我无用。如果我得到了我认为有用的任何经验,我一定会这样想的,这个经验嘛,我的老师长们可是提都没有提起过的呢。

  有一个农夫对我说:“光吃蔬菜是活不了的,蔬菜不能供给你骨骼所需要的养料;”

  这样他每天虔诚地分出了他的一部分时间,来获得那种可以供给他骨骼所需的养料;他一边说话,一边跟在耕牛后面走,让这条正是用蔬菜供养了它的骨骼的耕牛拖动着他和他的木犁不顾一切障碍地前进。某些事物,在某些场合,例如在最无办法的病人中间,确是生活的必需资料,却在另一些场合,只变成了奢侈品,再换了别样的场合,又可能是闻所未闻的东西。

  有人以为人生的全部,无论在高峰之巅或低陷之谷,都已给先驱者走遍,一切都已被注意到了。依熙爱芙琳的话:“智慧的所罗门曾下令制定树木中间应有的距离;罗马地方官也曾规定,你可以多少次到邻家的地上去拣拾那落下来的橡实而不算你乱闯的,并曾规定多少份橡实属于邻人。”希波克拉底甚至传下了剪指甲的方法,剪得不要太短或太长,要齐手指头。无疑问的,认为把生命的变易和欢乐都消蚀殆尽的那种烦谦和忧闷,是跟亚当同样地古老的。但人的力量还从未被衡量出来呢;我们不能根据他已经完成的事来判断他的力量,人做得少极了。不论你以前如何失败过,“别感伤,我的孩子,谁能指定你去做你未曾做完的事呢?”

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