May 24, 1851

 

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in Thoreau’s Journal:

Our most glorious experiences are a kind of regret. Our regret is so sublime that we may mistake it for triumph. It is the painful, plaintively sad surprise of our Genius remembering our past lives and contemplating what is possible.

It is remarkable that men commonly never refer to, never hint at, any crowning experience—when the common laws of their being were unsettled—and the divine & eternal laws prevailed in them. Their lives are not revolutionary—they never recognize any other than the local and temporal authorities.

It is a regret so divine & inspiring so genuine—based on so true & distinct a contrast—that it surpasses our proudest boasts and the fairest expectations.

My most sacred and memorable life is commonly on awaking in the morning—I frequently awake with an atmosphere about me as if my unremembered dreams had been divine—as if my spirit had journeyed to its native place, and in the act of reentering its native body, had diffused an elysian fragrance around.

The Genius says “Oh! That is what you were! That is what you may get be!” It is glorious for us to be able to regret even such an existence.

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A sane & growing man revolutionises every day.

What institutions of man can survive a morning experience.