It is no secret to regular readers that I am a fan of Henry David Thoreau. And the other day I uncovered more interesting tidbits about my fellow minimalist writer. I read that he purposely diversified his livelihood in pursuit of what he considered his primary calling, that of a writer. And he wrote expressly to share his philosophy of simpler living principles.
As I stated several posts ago, one of the keys to living the artisan life is to create a portfolio of skills and tools that allow you to make a living as well as a life. As it turns out, Thoreau was practically the poster boy for such a lifestyle, as he was prone to juggling multiple gigs.
For example, here is a list of self-described avocations for Thoreau: schoolmaster, tutor, surveyor, mason, gardener, farmer, house-painter, carpenter, day-laborer, abolitionist, pencil-maker, lecturer, naturalist, and writer. Yet as a young man Thoreau changed his given name from his birth name of David Henry Thoreau to identify his true vocation and signify his thinking of himself as a new man: a writer.
And Thoreau mentor and neighbor Ralph Waldo Emerson suggests here what his friend’s life was ultimately about: “[Thoreau] declined to give up his large ambition of knowledge and action for any narrow craft or profession, aiming at a much more comprehensive calling, the art of living well.”
Besides his Walden Pond experiment outside of his native Concord, Massachusetts, Thoreau also made several visits to Cape Cod and the Maine Woods, chronicling his adventures in books by the same names. And not altogether coincidentally, these are places I have come to call home over time. As for my listing of jobs through the years, it is a mixture also: landscaper, concierge, telemarketer, publicist, pastor, chaplain, teacher, consultant, speaker, editor, and writer. So what are your calling cards?