Are we just looking at life or seeing it? 

Hey y’all, me again. 

This is my third different column for the Webster Parish Journal. I’m separating thoughts into this trio because they each deal with important aspects of the human condition. 

“Men of Courage,” with my buddy Chris Plants, allows the former FBI agent to share stories of his time in law enforcement and the way God used him to help victims and turn around the lives of some who violently ran afoul against the laws of man and the laws of the Lord. We share what Jesus means to us. “Men of Courage” publishes once a month – the last Wednesday.  

“Page 210” is my regular weekly work. I share my thoughts and what I feel needs to be shared and why. A lot of times I’m writing for me. It’s cheaper than paying someone to listen. 

But there was something missing. “Men of Courage” is for sharing the Word. “Page 210” is for my word (whatever that’s worth – 2 cents maybe? Three at least). And this new one – “What You See” – will focus on old writings – from dudes like Thoreau and Emerson – and dudettes like Emily Dickinson – as well as ancient works from guys in comfortable clothes like Socrates and Epictetus and fat cat philosopher Seneca and the man above them all – Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. 

The guy in the pic, the statue beside me and my youngest, is Henry David Thoreau – my favorite writer and a fella who penned some of the most important ideas in American history. The concept of asking questions, even when the questions make some uncomfortable, was popularized in America by Thoreau. The term civil disobedience comes from HDT. Appreciating nature and telling others to basically stop and smell the roses largely came into the American zeitgeist through his writing. 

Last week I had the fortune of traveling far north with my family. One of the highlights- to me at least because my kids said “we came out here just to look at old house?” – was traveling to Walden Pond in Massachusetts to see … well, an old house. But it is a cool old house and one where Thoreau spent two years living on his own and reading and writing and thinking on the nature of man and how we can transcend beyond human nature and truly walk in the footsteps of a higher power. It’s about finding purpose as defined by God. 

That’s where the title comes from. Thoreau said it’s not about looking but actually seeing. That phrase has been borrowed and altered over the years by various folk but it always means that it is vital to think if you want to grow as a person. To ask questions. To use the brain God gave you. One guy asks God why He allows war and crime and pain and suffering and then God asks him the same question. Looking at life leads down dark roads. Seeing life leads to light. 

Seeing the world around us isn’t just literal. It’s not about just appreciating the sunrise over a far green field. And it’s not just about our faith. Like Jung said when he was asked about God. Invited or not, God is present. It’s about how we see our own lives. Everyday in every way we can use the words of Thoreau and Emerson and Dickinson and Socrates and Epictetus and fat cat philosopher Seneca and the man above them all – Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius – to help us with our daily struggles. Because even though their words are hundreds of years old – thousands in some cases – they are just as applicable today as they were when they were written. 

Thoreau wrote, “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.” We may not be living a Spartan life in the woods, but we can examine our own worlds every day to see if we are simply existing or really living. Are we just looking at life or seeing it? 

Some words are worth repeating over and over again until the end of the age. I’ll try to do that with “What You See.”

(Josh Beavers is a teacher and a writer. He has been recognized five times by the Louisiana Press Association for excellence in opinion writing.)