Instincts We Never Knew Before Were So Powerful

“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.”

~Henry David Thoreau, 1854

It’s a minor mystery why we sometimes wake up with something on our mind that we haven’t thought about in a long while. This morning, I woke up to an especially vivid recollection of a small herd of mule deer that Suzanne and I spotted on a midnight hike along a wilderness trail some years ago.   The deer moved soundlessly, like ghosts, in the bright moonlight.

It is moments like that one during which I feel most alive.

There are people whose religion is nature.  Thoreau was most likely one of those people.  So, too, are quite a few of the folks I’ve met here in the Springs.

Colorado Springs is, in some ways, an undesirable place to live.   Local politics is dominated by ideologues whose knee-jerk opposition to taxes recently translated into the City cutting back on police and fire fighters, and even shutting off every other street light, in order to save money.  Yet, the Springs is superbly located.  The Colorado wilderness begins less than a 30 minute drive from the City’s downtown.  If you are among those people who can find a ground or center for themselves in nature, the Springs is a good place to live.

I don’t know why it is, but churches have never affected me like a wilderness hike, an afternoon spent soaking in a warm mountain spring, the play of sunlight on lake waves, or the call of coyotes to the red sun.

It’s up in the mountains the risk of hypothermia is a more serious demand on our attention than all the world’s talk of salvation; it’s there the wind blowing through the ponderosa can roar like a river that carries our thoughts away; and it’s there when a lion looks at us, we feel the rise of primeval instincts we never knew before were so powerful.

It seems to me the “essential facts of life” are neither ideological, nor intellectual, but are instead existential.  And, perhaps, we are most often closest to those essential facts when we are “in the woods” or “up in the mountains”, so to speak.

10 thoughts on “Instincts We Never Knew Before Were So Powerful

  1. It seems to me the “essential facts of life” are neither ideological, nor intellectual, but are instead existential.

    I may be wrong, but it seems to me what Jiddu Krishnamurti tried to teach us.

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  2. It is the isolation without distractions. We are able to listen to our inner voices and participate in the conversation to discover who were are and how we fit into the whole. The “essential facts of life” are visceral, primitive to Thoreau. Civilization must be stripped away in order to feel the simplicity of living with Nature. This is why those with too many distractions will never know the visceral thrill of being a part of nature.

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