Slang from the 1920s fascinates me. Why are good things “the bee’s knees” or “the cat’s pajamas”? Why is a drunken bender “a toot?” The past is a world I will never be able to inhabit or understand.
It’s worth thinking about what things from our present reality will seem weird in the future. I’m not thinking of slang here, though I’m certain our internet-specific language will be particularly embarrassing in 100 years. I’m just thinking about what things we accept as normal will seem odd in the not so distant future.
I think the timeline will be one of those. The idea that the best way to keep up with people is to push out a message to everyone you know and see who responds is…well, it’s a strange choice we all made.
I remember the first time I was talking to a friend on Facebook and a relative responded and argued with them. It was a kind of context collapse that made me uncomfortable. Most people I know had a similar experience at some point—the moment they stopped posting on Facebook so openly.
So I’m trying to live less in the timeline. Hanging out with people in person is absolutely the ideal but I also want to keep up with people who aren’t nearb, and to be intentional about it. Some people I text constantly, some people I enjoy talking to but don’t think to message for months at end. So I made a semi-formal system.
Basically I have a list of people I want to say hi to at least once a month. Every day I try to text one of them—I added a recurring item to my to do list for exactly this reason. I text one person from this month’s list, then drag them to next month. I do this until the list is empty.
I’m not sticking to it perfectly but I am enjoying it. I recommend giving a similar system a shot.
“It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” Henry David Thoreau
The thing I try to keep in mind when I read about Thoreau is that he had rich parents. Even while living by Walden Pond he regularly walked to his parents’ place to eat fancy dinners and drop off his laundry, a fact that isn’t mentioned in the book for some reason.
Which is all to say that it’s easy to live a simple life when doing so doesn’t mean taking any meaningful risks.
I’m not knocking Thoreau for this. I would be happier if everyone felt secure enough to do eccentric things like live in a shack for a while and write a weird book. That’s a great thing, and we should strive to make this experience universal (imagine how many weird books we’re missing out on because of widespread poverty).
I just mean to say that you should understand this about Thoreau while thinking about his work, and you should for sure understand this about him in particular while thinking about this quote. Is not doing desperate things a characteristic of wisdom? Or is it a characteristic of not being in desperate situations?
This is what I’m asking. And I’m not sure Thoreau would know because, again, he had rich parents. So much of American culture is people with rich parents wondering what, exactly, the less well off are so worried about.