In 1845, Henry David Thoreau began his famous exodus into the woods, resulting in a two year settlement next to Walden Pond. It was here that Thoreau would battle his own “quiet desperation,” by examining his life and the truth captured by the details of nature. His writings would later reveal that “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the 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.” His thoughts assert that life requires intentionality, personableness with one’s “internal voice,” if it is to be truly experienced. In a tone not altogether confident in his fellow man, he questions whether or not some are ever really awake. Presumptive though it may be, Ralph Waldo Emerson later shared this sentiment in his infamous echo, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” In an effort to learn from these masters of thought, this essay serves as an ode to self-reflection, to honest thoughts in private moments. It assumes the belief that truth and revelation often dwell in quieter places, recognizing that they require something of our character that constant commotion and busyness do not. Solitude and reflection, especially in this age we find ourselves, must certainly be learned. Finally, it offers a few lessons from the humble and great soul seafarers of the past – may they serve as a guide to navigate that internal ocean.
Reflection is an emotional muscle, requiring training and skill to wield properly. As with any skill, there are obstacles on the path to mastery