But I foresee that if my wants should be much increased, the labor required to supply them would become a drudgery. If I should sell both my forenoons and afternoons to society, as most appear to do, I am sure that for me there would be nothing worth left living for…. I wish to suggest that a man may be very industrious, and yet not spend his time well. There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting a living.”
–Henry David Thoreau
I’ve heard back from the Emerson Foundation. Their response could be viewed as a success, a partial success, or a failure.
While it may be prudent to view the response as a partial success, I deem it wise to view it as a workable success.
They will not fund the project in full, but they will deed the land in perpetuity to the Emerson Institute.
They have not approved my plan in full, but they have resubmitted a revised plan that will work.
My architectural plans have been redesigned by their architects; my budget requirements recalculated by their financial analysts.
Fortunately, my educational plans and mission statement were untouched, at this point. I will need to safeguard them before we sign anything binding, at least to insure that we can maintain the spirit of the vision. I don’t want our children looking down the barrel of standardized tests five years from now.
Their agreement rests on my providing the funding: they will provide the land, and I will provide the financial backing.
I had estimated that 100k would be sufficient to start the project, and I’ve saved up that much already. Their CFO has returned an estimate of 350k; they will not deed the land unless the budget they propose is adopted–and funded by me.
And the architect added the absurd requirement of twenty columns!
I shouldn’t be surprised. All it takes is a careful examination of my great, great, grand uncle’s journals and letters, and one can see the roots of this persistent feud between my family and the Emersons. Who is more earnest than whom?
Which is pretense and which authenticity?
Ralph never visited Henry during his days in jail. “Just pay the taxes!” Ralph insisted, burning from the shame that he felt his association with my great, great, grand uncle brought onto him. Screw it, Ralph. Some things–such as an unjust war–demand taking a stand. If the stand leads one to spend a few nights in jail, this is not a cause for shame. It’s a cause for pride.
The Emerson Foundation ranks its sincerity by the column.
Never mind, and let this old feud go! An attitude of bitterness will not bear sweet fruit!
What do we have?
We have the land! We have the conditional support, backing, and name of the Emerson Institute.
I have the ability to do labor, even if it is predominantly the labor of the mind: my books will fund this project.
We will make creative use of this extravagance of column! Perhaps I will even let it be a folly: a standing monument to pretension! Perhaps we will make it a place for play! Perhaps I can use the columns to support outdoor areas for creativity and learning, our own Lyceum!
It’s too soon for me to feel discouraged. It is only a matter of time until I have earned the funds needed to support this project. I am nearly a third of the way there–and though it has taken nine full weeks to earn this amount, it need not take another 18 to earn the rest, for the royalties I receive have increased.
I can use the time well–if I am to be a worthy mentor, I will need to increase my skills. I have mastered logic and writing, and nearly mastered gardening, but there is so much more to learn! I need to know how to paint, play music, nurture the body through diet and exercise.
I have much work to do to learn these skills and raise these funds.
It is up to me to ensure that my efforts do not become drudgery. It was to retain freedom that I came to this small cabin, to see if I could continue the tradition my great, great grand uncle started. Could I live simply and well, with my forenoons and afternoons free?
I am now devoting myself to labor. And yet, the labor itself is good, blessed by the fruitfulness of mind and the joy that it brings me to express thoughts and ideas in words which will be shared by others.
And the project–the fruitful dream–that this labor will support!
The sound of children’s laughter spurs me on. I cast my line down the stream of time, and the line flows to an eddy, in a future not so distant as to be out of reach, and there is where the laughter waits.
It is not drudgery if I work with an open mind, a sincere heart, and open hands. It is not drudgery when it is my vision that guides this labor to bring to reality a dream.
While it is not all easy, while it is accompanied by challenge, this response from the Emerson Foundation brings this idea into the realm of something that will happen. The dream is underway.