Although well known and oft-repeated, that’s actually a misquote. Thoreau wrote, in Walden, that “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Here is the full quote, in context:
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.
Thoreau was talking about the void we all feel and the common impulse most humans feel to try and fill it with material things. Walden is a journal of sorts, detailing his time in the woods and away from modern society, searching for inner peace and finding himself and new perspective there.
A friend and I were discussing this “quiet desperation” quote last night, as we discussed our respective marriages and marriage in general. Our conversation focused on the complacency that occurs after years of seeing the ins and outs and annoying habits of another human being’s existence. I think it’s so common for husbands and wives to leave the runway together, aimed for the stars and the experience of a lifetime, only to land early on a makeshift dirt runway in a place just outside Settle Town, USA.
Was that too obnoxious an analogy? Maybe so, but you get what I’m saying. If most new brides and grooms begin the marriage with the best of intentions – which I believe is the case – how do so many of us end up in a ditch somewhere, disoriented and disheartened and what our lives have become?
I’m not even talking about 10 years in, guys. I myself have been married for 9 years, but the trouble started brewing quite a while ago and I don’t think we’re unique in that. I talk to so many men and women – friends, colleagues, acquaintances – who are at most, content in their marriages and at worse, extremely unhappy and in some cases, depressed. Most of them are not seeking divorce. They just want to live their best lives and they want to do it with a willing partner who shares their interests and passions.
[Side note: For some reason, whenever I hear the term “quiet desperation” in my head the Queensryche song “Silent Lucidity” starts playing. Interestingly, the song is about lucid dreaming, which is being able to consciously control what happens in your dreams. So in a way, it’s related. ]
The “quiet desperation” quote came up discussing marriage because my friend and I were connecting on some shared issues. The others I’ve spoken with relate to the same issues and experiences, too. Even though all these people are having this same experience, none of them (none of us) are really talking about it. It’s a secret struggle. There is so much irony in something so commonplace and universal being something we hold inside and keep to ourselves and work to camouflage on social media.
Let’s don’t lead lives of quiet desperation any longer. Let’s start talking to each other, and communicating with our spouses, and stepping outside the confines of the rules of marriage if that’s what it takes. The only time that exists is the present, and it’s crap to waste it wondering if we are loved, wondering if we had married someone else, would we be vacationing in Mykonos right now instead of stuck at home washing dishes for an ungrateful partner. That’s not life. That’s not what life is for!
So how to we get back in the air? How to do get out of Settle Town and back en route to our dreams and wildest fantasies (hopefully together with our chosen partners)? Honesty! Speaking our truth! I think we all have to learn to be uncomfortable for a moment in order to be blissfully happy for a lifetime.
Believing we are alone is what fosters our desperation. In truth, nothing is singular and everything is shared. We are all connected. We are all pieces of the same consciousness having several different (but oddly similar) human experiences. As Thoreau said, we would be wise not to do desperate things. We would be wise to realize that we are not alone, and the future is what we make it.
I’m rambling, so I’ll leave it there. Namaste and happy Monday! XOXO
“…the future is beautiful, alright? Look out the window. It’s sunny every day here. It’s like manifest destiny. Don’t tell me we didn’t make it. We made it! We are here. And everything that is past is prologue to this. All of the shit that didn’t kill us is only… you know, all that shit. You’re gonna get over it.” – Rob (Ron Livingston), Swingers
I’ve been thinking a lot about destiny. What it is, what it means, how it works.
Every day when I pull a tarot card or cards for the day, I journal them. Sometimes at night I just play with the cards, trying to get a feel for them and for reading. Last night I pulled some cards not to journal, but because I wanted an answer about something.
One of the cards that popped out was the Wheel of Fortune card (from the Wild Unknown Deck). It’s a gorgeous card, messy and colorful and full of meaning. At the top, a crescent moon and stars. The man picture of the card resembles a Native American medicine wheel that’s been made from yarn and twigs. A colorless sun shines beneath the wheel. An owl sits perches atop the highest twig branch.
The meaning of this card is heavy. As a 10 card it represents completion – the end of a cycle. The Wheel itself represents change rolling in, sometimes good and sometimes uncomfortable, but always necessary. I see this card as a positive one, as change brings growth and growth leads us to our highest good. In the guidebook, it says the Wheel of Fortune is the card of Destiny.
Long after I’d pulled the cards and studied them, I kept thinking about the concept of Destiny. Is it something that happens, or something that just is? Does it happen to us or for us? Do we all face our destiny, do we create our destiny, do we have the power to change our destiny (because free will is obviously a thing).
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the truth of the wheel is much simpler than that. I hopped out of bed, grabbed my journal and a pen, and scribbled:
“What if it’s less about finding destiny or destiny happening to us? What if I AM destiny?”
Boom. Lightning moment for me. What if I – what if we all – have much more power than we believe, or were told, or have ever imagined possible, over our future and how our lives play out?
Maybe destiny is something that, on the path to spiritual enlightenment, we begin to meld with? To have the thing, we must BE the thing, right? To have joy, we must be joy. To have love, we must first be love. This is how we match vibration and allow things to become true in our lives.
So… what if to activate a certain destiny, to realize our fate, all we have to do is become it? Similar to a choose your own adventure novel, where one path leads to page 24 and another leads to page 116 and we get to decide our own ending. What if that’s been the point all along? Through shadow work, meditation, visualization, inspired action, learning, teaching, growing, loving, laughing, experiencing, and believing before we see, we both sketch out or own future – which is fluid and in motion, like the Wheel – and then step into it?