Recently, Duke University law professor Jedediah Purdy wrote about the “energy of life” that enabled Henry David Thoreau to make connections to the rest of the world (Nation Magazine, November 2017). Connections to his neighbor Emerson and the Trancendentalists, to the abolitionists and the underground railway, to the citizens and civic culture of Concord, to the impinging industrialization and in his feuds with local authorities, but especially to the natural world.
Thoreau knew with all his being “that he and the soil, the trees, and the rivers of New England were all patterned matter shot through the same ‘energy of life.’”
It is the same today, although we live in a different world of modern medicine, widespread educational opportunities, global travel, the internet, and space exploration. But it still requires the “energy of life” to make connections.
With a greater awareness of what’s happening in the world, we have opportunities to make more connections. One area I feel has been ignored: to make connections with the achievements and memories of the lives of those departed. In his old age, diplomat George Kennan wrote, “Our country neither wants us nor understands us.” We are bound closely and spiritually to family members, but we need to use our “energy of life” to preserve and study the wisdom of former generations, here in our own communities, in our own country, and from all over the world. Their lives are not worn out wisdom. Those past lives still bring spiritual energy in our lives today.