“Nothing with haste or drudgery”

Again, Patrick Kurp at Anecdotal Evidence has a thought provoking post about literature and life. In this post, he’s exploring Henry David Thoreau’s words on George Minott, a farmer Thoreau admired for his deliberate style of living. Kurp quotes Thoreau:
“Minott is, perhaps, the most poetical farmer—who most realizes to me the poetry of the farmer’s life—that I know. He does nothing with haste and drudgery, but as if he loved it. He makes the most of his labor, and takes infinite satisfaction in every part of it. He is not looking forward to the sale of his crops or any pecuniary profit, but he is paid by the constant satisfaction which his labor yields him. He has not too much land to trouble him, – too much work to do, – no hired man nor boy, – but simply to amuse himself and live. He cares not so much to raise a large crop as to do his work well. He knows every pin and nail in his barn. If another linter is to be floored, he lets no hired man rob him of that amusement, but he goes slowly to the woods and, at his leisure, selects a pitch pine tree, cuts it, and hauls it or gets it hauled to the mill; and so he knows the history of his barn floor.”

The last line, which Kurp uses as the title of his post, is one of those ending lines Thoreau so perfected as a writer. But I, like Kurp, find the earlier point about Minott doing “nothing with haste or drudgery, but as if he loved it” compelling. So much of contemporary life is done with an eye on the clock. We live on railway time, on factory time, on Greenwich mean time. We live in a 24 hr news cycle with second by second twitter conversations driving our public conversation. We have to compartmentalize our lives in order to carve out time for ourselves. Nothing about contemporary life seems consonant with the idea of doing “nothing with haste or drudgery.” Yet, at least for me, my best ideas, my best writing comes when I allow myself the space to percolate and think. I can write at a clip; everything that I need to get done gets done for the most part. But that pace leaves little time for reflection. For thinking deliberately. Perhaps that’s why I miss my daily commute so much. The half hour drive to work while I was in graduate school was time that I could just think in.


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