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. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartanlike as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and to be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to ‘glorify God and enjoy him forever.’
Here’s the part that inspires me most.
…and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
Here, as you may have guessed, is the part that intrigues me most.
…and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to ‘glorify God and enjoy him forever.’
At first I was surprised and saddened by this ending. Surprised because I didn’t see it coming and because he was obviously familiar with The Westminster Shorter Catechism. Saddened because I perceived him to be attacking what Scripture teaches to be the chief end of man.
On further reflection, perhaps he was right. Perhaps it was with too much haste that we drew this conclusion.
Perhaps we should have drawn this conclusion more slowly—in the same way that Thoreau drew his: by going “to the woods because [we] wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life.” Then we would know that the chief end of man is indeed to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
May we not, when we come to die, discover that we had not lived.