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Goodness the only good investment

india Updated: Feb 19, 2010 01:22 IST
Henry David Thoreau

Our whole life is startlingly moral. There is never an instant's truce between virtue and vice. Goodness is the only investment that never fails. Every one of us is a builder of a temple, called body, to the god one worships, after a style purely his own.

Though the youth at last grows indifferent, the laws of the universe are not indifferent, but are forever on the side of the most sensitive.

We are conscious of the animal in us, which awakens in proportion as our higher nature slumbers. It is reptile and sensual, and perhaps cannot be wholly expelled; like the worms which even in life and health, occupy our bodies. Possibly we may withdraw from it, but never change its nature.

A command over our passions and over the external senses of the body, and good acts, are declared by the Ved to be indispensable in the mind's approximation to God. Yet the spirit can for the time pervade and control every member and function of the body, and transmute what in form is the grossest sensuality into purity and devotion.

Chastity is the flowering of man; and what are called genius, heroism, holiness and the like, are but various fruits that succeed it. Man flows at once to God when the channel of purity is open. By turns our purity inspires and our impurity casts us down.

He is blessed who is assured that the animal is dying out in him day by day, and the divine being established. Perhaps there is none, but has cause of shame on account of the inferior and brutish nature to which he is allied. I fear that we are such gods or demigods only as fauns and satyrs, the divine allied to beasts, the creature to appetite, and that, to some extent, our very life is our disgrace. How happy is he who has due place assigned to his beasts and cleaned up his mind!

(This is an edited version of an extract from the author’s book, Walden and other Writings)