A bean patch in the cosmos (Walden 9)

640px-Night_sky“We might try our lives by a thousand simple tests; as, for instance, that the same sun which ripens my beans illumines at once a system of earths like ours. If I had remembered this it would have prevented some mistakes. This was not the light in which I hoed them. The stars are the apexes of what wonderful triangles! What distant and different beings in the various mansions of the universe are contemplating the same one at the same moment!”  — Henry David Thoreau, “Economy,” Walden

Sometimes you can only slap your forehead at the realization of your own carelessness. While hoeing his beans, Henry forgot to bear in mind that the sun was simultaneously illuminating other planets. Can you believe that? For all he knew, our sun might be shining in a constellation in some distant observer’s night sky.

And to think… that day he hoed those bean rows under that burning sun without thinking that thought even once. A missed opportunity. He merely stood in a bean patch when he could have been standing in a bean patch in the cosmos.

But now we’ve been warned not to make the same mistake, warned by an anecdote written by a man who’s been in his grave more than 150 years. I wonder if Henry considered that possibility when he wrote it?

(About  “A Year in Walden”)


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