December 28, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Both for bodily and mental health, court the present. Embrace health wherever you find her. A clump of birches raying out from one centre make a more agreeable object than a single tree. The rosettes in the ice, as Channing calls them, now and for some time have attracted me.

It is worth the while to apply what wisdom one has to the conduct of his life, surely. I find myself oftenest wise in little things and foolish in great ones. That I may accomplish some particular petty affair well, I live my whole life coarsely. A broad margin of leisure is as beautiful in a man’s life as in a book.

Haste makes waste, no less in life than in housekeeping. Keep the time, observe the hours of the universe, not of the cars. What are three score years and ten hurriedly and coarsely lived to moments of divine leisure in which your life is coincident with the life of the universe ? We live too fast and coarsely, just as we eat too fast, and do not know the true savor of our food. We consult our will and understanding and the expectation of men, not our genius. I can impose upon myself tasks which will crush me for life and prevent all expansion, and this I am but too inclined to do.

One moment of life costs many hours–hours not of business but of preparation and invitation. Yet the man who does not betake himself at once and desperately to sawing is called a loafer, though he may be knocking at the doors of heaven all the while, which shall surely be opened to him. That aim in life is highest which requires the highest and finest discipline. How much, what infinite leisure it requires, as of a lifetime, to appreciate a single phenomenon! You must camp down beside it, as if for life, having reached your land of promise, and give yourself wholly to it. It must stand for the whole world for you, symbolical of all things. The least partialness is your own defect of sight and cheapens the experience fatally. Unless the humming of a gnat is as the music of the spheres, and the music of’ the spheres is as the humming of a gnat, they are naught to me. It is not communications to serve for a history, —which are science, —but the great story itself, that cheers and satisfies us.