Explore, Dream, Discover: Advice from Mark Twain on How to Live your Life; Response to a Challenge & Pass it on!
Author Mark Twain
'Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover' - Mark Twain
Ages ago Jo Goldsmith issued a challenge in her hub "My Favorite Quote Essay Challenge". I took notes on it for future reference, then it got lost in the file pile! I've just uncovered it, dusted it off and here it is. Sorry for the delay, Jo. Perhaps you can give me the correct link to your original hub?
This was the challenge:
The goal is to
1. Identify an historical person who has quoted something profound that you can relate to.
2. Explain why you chose the quote you selected.
3. Say how the famous quote you selected allowed you to grow in your life.
4. Use the format of an Essay approach.
As my chosen quote has not actually affected the way I’ve grown in my life, I’m ignoring no.3. However, I can indeed relate to the above quote from Mark Twain and will explain why.
Learning the Piano
Things I Didn't Do
We can all regret certain things we did do, be disappointed with our actions and reactions, disappointed with results of exams or with the direction our lives sometimes took. What about the things I didn’t do?
How many of us say, ‘Oh, I wish I’d done that!’, either when referring to ourselves or talking about someone else’s actions or achievements?
I didn’t take Art ‘O’ level (now called GCSE), I didn’t persevere with my piano lessons, nor my German lessons, I didn’t keep going when teaching became stressful, when I was too naive. So many things I could cite here but what’s the point?
Regret, disappointment, wishing to relive the past, it’s all nonsense because we can’t go back, we can’t undo parts of our lives. We can say, ‘I'm sorry’ if we hurt someone, and move on. Above all we can learn from our mistakes, learn from what we did or what we omitted to do and step up to a higher level. I've done something about the Art but the piano and the German remain untended!
So many of us need to ‘go for it’, to take risks, to push ourselves beyond the boundaries to the utmost challenges we can face.
In short, we need to follow Mark Twain’s advice.
Throw off the bow-lines
My mother’s side of the family included many sea-faring folk, mostly to do with the navy, so casting off or even casting adrift is quite appealing to me. I love boats, am much happier in a ship than in a plane and I adore being on and by the sea (though not in it!). I grew up by the sea, on the south coast of England; the sea is in my blood.
Figuratively speaking, casting off would imply that we let go, we release ourselves from the ties that bind us, the ties that we grew up with. It implies that we go it alone, fend for ourselves; we follow a path which demands us to think, act and take responsibility for everything we do, good or bad.
I’m not saying we should cut ourselves off from our families, only that we should have the courage to be independent, to fly the nest and see what paths exist in the wide, wild world.
Available for the taking is a sense of freedom, a sense of adventure, a sense of risk, to feel our nerve-ends tingling, the hairs on the back of our necks standing to attention.
Out to the Swell of the Sea
Sail away from safe harbour
Having cast off from all we know, from our safe haven, we sail away and find out what the choppy waters have to offer.
A safe harbour is just that - safe. It isn’t exciting, it isn’t challenging, it isn’t exhilarating. It’s cosy, warm, away from the rude winds and the buffeting rollers. It offers sanctuary in its arms, calm waters inshore from the ruffling crests and rising swell.
The ruffling crests give us a reason to react, to overcome them, to dispel them in a way that is satisfying, that increases experience, that better prepares us for the next battle. For life is a battle; we fight and we either fail or we overcome. I’m not talking about fighting another person; many of the demons, many of the antagonists, come from within. We fight those demons, we rise above our former selves, we become stronger and, I believe, wiser.
The swell, rising glossy and threatening from the deep, presents a different dilemma. It’s beneath the surface. It doesn’t toss and turn, dip and rise. It drags in the dark, it squirms beneath, it moves in mystery, murkiness and malice. It is strong, slow and slippery. It is insidious. It can drag us down, throttle us and suffocate us to extinction.
We have to deal with our darkest thoughts which swell up and can take control if we let them. Without control, how do we keep our language or our actions in check? How can we earn respect? Why should anyone take heed?
With experience out of our comfort zone, out of our ‘safe harbour’, we can learn how to deal with the niggling ruffles and the dangerous swells.
Sailing Ships of Old
Catch the trade winds in your sails
Ever been in a little sailing boat? Ever waited for the wind to catch the sail, for when the cloth billows out like a puffed cheek, for the boat to lurch into an exciting roller-coaster? If you have, you’ll know that the first time you feel it you could ride for ever on that wave, in that breeze, to the ends of the earth, to search for treasure, for new lands, for adventure. You could ride on the trade winds towards new horizons, on the heels of the unknown.
The unknown in our lives can be daunting, frightening - if you wish it to be. On the other hand, it can be an incentive to explore. Maybe a foreign clime intices you but you don’t actually have to go anywhere. You could explore new feelings, new questions, new challenges to your beliefs, new emotions to test your senses, test your intellect, test your resilience.
Wind can be unsettling. A teacher knows that on a windy day the pupils are often more difficult to contain, their concentration wanders more easily, they are restless. The wind disturbs your hair, at least ruffles it, and throws long tresses all over the place, making it unruly, making us annoyed because it won’t stay put. It can also dump us in the doldrums.
Conversely, it might give us a sense of fun which makes us daring, foolhardy, even mischievous. It can lead to a freedom of spirit which in itself is invigorating and empowering. Make the most of that feeling; go with it! Where will it take you? What will it offer you? Where will you go? Who will you meet?
Catch those winds, dance on them, follow the whirling, swirling currents until they place you lightly on a beach or roughly on the rocks. The sand can be deep, the rocks can be strong. Never take anything for granted!
What Will You Find?
We don’t have to travel for miles to explore. We don’t have to go to the ends of the earth, to the jungle, down the Amazon, up Everest, across deserts.
Explore yourself, your wishes, your interests, your desires, your ambitions. Explore your emotions. Explore your daily life. Explore your own environment.
What do you see within you? What do you see around you? What do you see in front of your eyes? What do you see on the horizon?
A touch, a glance, a click of a camera, a step, a stride, a jump or a fall; all of these are exploration.
Explore your relationships. In fact, make it a daily task to find out something new about yourself, about someone else, about your surroundings. You’ll be surprised how much you don’t know and, what’s more, you’ll be surprised how much you find out, how much more you notice when you decide to explore.
Are you aware of your child’s worse fear? Do you know why your neighbour never invites anyone in? What’s your best friend’s favourite colour?
Where will you go?
Our dreams when we sleep sometimes reveal thoughts and wishes from our inner soul. Dreams when awake, daydreams if you like, are something many think won’t happen, just pie in the sky. Any dream which we wish would come true is worth pursuing, no matter how outlandish it may seem.
If we don’t chase our dreams, what are we worth? If we aspire to something, what are we if we don’t try? Even if success is elusive, does it matter? It’s the chasing of that dream that can take us along a road with forks, u-turns and dead-ends, each one teaching us a lesson, each one having a value of its own. The trick is recognising that value. The bonus is having the dream come true. Then the next dream is in line, waiting to be picked out and taken to its destination.
By casting off, by leaving our safe harbour, by catching the wind in our sails, we give ourselves the opportunity to discover different paths, opportunities and choices. We discover that the world can offer us so much. Most of all we discover that we are in charge of our own destiny. Our dreams, our choices, our actions and reactions shape our lives.
Discover what’s over that horizon and the next and the next; your journey will continue as long as you like, exploring paths you never even dreamed of.
Go there! Weave your Words! Draw your Dreams!
For the Writer?
From a writer’s point of view, we should push our boundaries, explore different styles, dig out new words and phrases, go outside our comfort zone. We should dream of making a difference, helping, educating, informing. We should discover what we have in the depth of our souls, light or dark, and attempt to divulge it to the world. We should strive to become better wordsmiths as we weave our words in and out of life’s cloth.
Will you sit at home wondering what if…? Will you think ‘I’m not brave enough to do that’? Will you stay within your boundaries, make do with your ‘lot’?
Maybe you will; or maybe you’ll take a deep breath, count to ten and step out of those bonds. Maybe you’ll turn your back on that safe harbour, go with the wind that fills your sails. You have a world of senses to discover and experience.
Explore! Dream! Discover!
Copyright annart/AFC 2015 (text and personal photos)
Mark Twain 1835-1910
An adventurer and an intellectual, from Hannibal, Missouri, Samuel Langhorne Clemens wrote under the pen name of Mark Twain and was one of the premier writers of late 19th century America. He wrote several novels and based his fictional works "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" on his hometown. Life on the Mississippi River influenced his stories; he witnessed steamboats arriving, circuses and minstrel shows. His town had a library, tradesmen such as blacksmiths and tanners and much more, to enthral, to be observed and to provide the basis for tales and adventure.
Samuel Clemens had wit and a sharp eye for the truth. He was also a riverboat pilot, journalist, lecturer, entrepreneur and inventor. As Mark Twain he became a national treasure. He died on 21st April 1910 in Redding, Connecticut.
The Moon, the Stars, the Universe.........
Create a Hub from a Quote!
I almost chose a quote from Oscar Wilde, one of the most witty and observant writers of all time, though also a rebel and wildly controversial. Maybe those things go hand in hand, do you think?
So I’m putting forward the following quotes in case you would like to rise to the challenge and create a hub from one of them:
“With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?” - Oscar Wilde
“To define is to limit.” - Oscar Wilde
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” - Oscar Wilde
“You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes, or for their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear.” - Oscar Wilde
What are Trade Winds?
geography.about.com states that ‘Solar radiation warms the air over the equator, causing it to rise. The rising air then proceeds south and north toward the poles. From approximately 20 degrees to 30 degrees North and South latitude, the air sinks. Then, the air flows along the surface of the earth back toward the equator.’
What are the Doldrums?
‘Sailors noticed the stillness of the rising (and not blowing) air near the equator and gave the region the depressing name “doldrums”.’
If you’re ‘down in the doldrums’ you don’t know what to do, you have no incentive, you’re lost and depressed. There is no action, no fresh air and no reason, apparently, to change the situation. Hopefully, that never happens to you; if it does, give yourself a dig in the ribs, get off your back-side and off you go!