Thoreau said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” I am not a fan of overused quotations; the impact, especially of inspired thought, is diminished–unless time is taken to reflect upon what was said, rather than thinking, “oh, that is profound”, and continuing with the day.
I think few of us question the accuracy of Thoreau’s observation.
Why is it so, then?
I believe it has much to do with the absence of purpose. An absence of a goal to strive for–a mountain to climb, a river to cross–induces a buried hopelessness, the persistent question, “Is this all there is?” One’s answer to this internal question determines whether one’s life is led in ‘quiet desperation’–or quiet determination.
Those people who live mostly in desperation do so because they’ve been, deliberately or not, blind to the fact that they can steer their own lives, and not merely be adrift. One can be the tillerman of one’s own lifeboat, so to speak. Determination of one’s destiny need not be left to fate, or chance.
That one has control over one’s life can be, is, a frightening thought and one that many run away from. If responsibility is taken, the cost is high–it is the knowledge that responsibility for failures goes hand-in-hand with the responsibility for success. Rather than taking the blame for failing, it is much easier to lay it at the feet of ‘chance’ or ‘luck’ or outside circumstances.
But the price of refusal to ‘take the wheel’ is also high: a life led in ‘quiet desperation’.