Thoreau Was Wrong

One of the famous signature quotes from Thoreau is “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” However, he was mistaken. It’s when men don’t lead that they end up in these moments of desperation and if they become complacent in it they ultimately live their lives in quiet – maybe a grunt here or there at the water cooler, but they ultimately die out quietly and unnoticed.

So it’s not that most men lead lives of quiet desperation; it’s that what they follow leads to it.

In Proverbs 7, King Solomon talks about what happens when we follow our heart rather than lead it. Emotions change; sometimes emotions change as quickly as weather in the mountains. Since our hearts are so indecisive, they can’t really be trusted.

I’m not saying our hearts shouldn’t be heard. The poetry and beauty that mankind has added to this world depends on the heart, soul and mind down to its core. However, directing life on a series of decisions based on what feels good has a proven track record of causing destruction.

It’s like that scene in The Incredibles with the cape discussion. Bob (Mr. Incredible) wants a cape because it appeals to his feeling of a superhero. Edna has to go on a lengthy monologue that explains how capes spelled the demise of one superhero after another. After all that, Bob decides he doesn’t really want a new suit.

I’m not entirely certain, but I think the cape on Superman was little more than his baby blanket bound around his neck. You could even say that Superman was the first security-blanket-loving-Linus character.

Back to the point – bright men come up with ideas but often seek bad counsel. They give up and feel hopelessness choke out their creativity. In their shame and reluctance they remain quiet when new ideas come to mind which makes them feel their desperation even more. They followed the wrong counsel – the wrong advice – the insecure heart. So shed that cape, turn off the TV, pick up a good book and change the way you think. Let wisdom and understanding guide you and you won’t end up quiet or in desperation.

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