Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Air Within the Hollow of Bones

The Air Within the Hollow of Bones

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 wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life...

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau
The lines above are much quoted ones from Thoreau but they express exactly how I feel--especially on a Sunday night like this, before the start of another week.

I often ask myself the question: have I done enough to "suck out all the marrow of life"? To me, living life to the fullest (which is what the phrase is taken to mean at the very superficial level) does not only mean enjoying every pleasure that there is in this world. That's hedonism.

Well, let me state it clear that there's nothing wrong with a hedonistic life. I have nothing against it. The pursuit of pleasure is a perfectly legitimate reason for living. But that's not good enough for me.

Worldly pleasures are like the flesh of the meat that you eat; you ignore the bones. The pleasures that I look for are in the marrow of the bones--you need to suck them out.

Doesn't that sound so gluttonously gross! Am I like those poor souls in the Hellraiser movies, always in search of the "ultimate pleasure" only to find that they only lead to the gates of hell?

"Sucking all the marrow of life" to me means doing everything possible within your means and ability to realize your true potential. Have you challenged yourself? Have you recoiled from doing something out of fear? Have you wasted time because you have been just plain lazy?

Realizing your true potential does not always equal to "success" in the conventional sense. Again that's not what I'm looking for. Worldly success is but the "flesh", certainly not the "marrow in the bones". You could feast on all the flesh there is out there and still miss the essence in the bones.

Now, what's so important about the marrow? The dictionary defines "marrow" (besides being the substance inside the bone or spinal cord) as the "the inmost, choicest or essential part" of something. Isn't that another form of "pleasure"?

Perhaps. But that's not the point. Allow me to quote another cliche: it's the journey, not the destination that matters.

In the final analysis, it is the act of sucking out the marrow that is important. Not the marrow. It is all the hardwork that goes into trying to extract out the essence of who you are and what it is that you are destined to do. That's what I mean by "sucking the marrow of life".

You might end up not tasting much of this elusive marrow. You reach the end of your life and you are still uncertain if you have really found all the answers that you have been looking for. The bones that you have been sucking could be disappointingly hollow.

But to me if you have really tried hard enough, then you have done an honest lifetime of work. There are lessons to be learnt even in the air within the hollow of bones. If you have done that dilligently, you would have, as Thoreau put it, "sucked out all the marrow of life".

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