Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something. –Henry David Thoreau
First off… Quote of the Week is a new exciting feature here, hoping to play on the wisdom of our elders. Thoreau has always been a huge influence on me so I can think of no one more apropos than he to start this.
I have been thinking lately how much our world could do if we were better people. I am realistic with this. We need less glamorous professions (accountants, sanitation workers) to make this world work. But imagine if all those people who committed themselves to lowly pursuits, either as thieves or drug dealers, decided that despite their own hardships, they would help others. In this, I hope, they may help themselves.
Look at what Old Henry is saying here:
- “Do not be too moral.”
We don’t need to judge others .
- “You may cheat yourself out of much life so.”
If we waste out of time concerned with gossip or condemnation, we are letting our time slip by. For all those hours people spend talking or self righteously casting out others, others could be fed in soup kitchens or streets could be cleaned.
- “Aim above morality.”
I think too often we focus on what the person is and not their potential. I met a stripper once who was paying her way through college so she could be a nurse. Many would look at a stripper and say that she’s worthless, probably assume she’s a drug addict, and confidently declare she will never be more than that. Look passed what that person is now. If they could be removed from that situation, they have the capacity for much more.
- “ Be not simply good; be good for something.” We could all go to church on Sunday and work hard honest lives. There is nothing wrong with that. Thoreau is encouraging us to go beyond it though. If you have the skills or talents that you can lend elsewhere, do so. I’m certainly a better writer than a plumber so I would rather encourage others through word. If you’re a better plumber, help build a Habitat for Humanity house. You will be changing someone’s life in the process.
I’m curious what other people think. This is my own interpretation and probably out of context to what Thoreau was writing about. However, I’m sure someone else will have some helpful insight as well.