"That's what they call 'mud,'" I say, getting my camera out. As I'm blogging the photographs, he wants to put the instructions his way: "Step 1: Buy the best coffee beans you can afford. Step 2: Grind as fine as possible. Step 3: Put ground coffee in a mug, pour hot water over it, stir. Step 4: Allow 1 minute for grounds to settle — for mud to settle — to the bottom. Step 5: Profit! Enjoy! Salut!"
I'm all excited because mud is a theme here on the blog lately. Writing yesterday about The House of Fallen Timbers, I was thinking about Henry David Thoreau, who built his cabin in the woods. I dug out an old quote about that, and got quite absorbed in a passing reference to Thoreau's concern with "how to get my living honestly, with freedom left for my proper pursuits." What are these "proper pursuits" that are not getting your living, and how much do you try to make time — to make freedom — for the things that are not living-getting? Do you even think in those terms? Perhaps you see getting your living as your proper pursuit, and it involves no loss of freedom. But then why do you see it that way? If you did not see it that way, what would you see? What would be your proper pursuit if it was not doing your job for the purpose of making a living? Perhaps there is another way to make coffee.
But Meade's mud took me back to the comments on the "Fallen Timbers" post. In the comments over there, Milwaukee said:
Henry David Thoreau is much more impressive if one doesn't learn that his mum wondered [sic] out once a week to collect, and drop off, laundry. But he did give us some things to think about, and I have a few favorite quotes, attributable to him, which I mangle. Specifically, the one about 'want to live, so as when I came to die, find that I had not lived.' and the different drummer thang.Ah, it hurt me to see him diminished like that, because Thoreau had a big effect on me as a teenager, when I was thinking about how I wanted to live — what my proper pursuit was. There was one quote in particular, not any of the ones Milwaukee mangled. It was something with a distinctive word — mud — which made it easy to Google. I found it and wrote this in the comments on the "Fallen Timbers" post:
I was assigned to give the "invocation" at my high school graduation, and I based it on a Thoreau quote. Afterwards, some people — including a nun — criticized me for not making a more conventional prayer.Are you going about your business?
Now, I teach Religion and the Constitution in law school, including the case where the Supreme Court nixed all graduation prayers.
My rights were soooo violated, and I was only trying to share a Thoreau quote that impressed me.
And now I share Thoreau quotes with all the world.
This was the quote:
"Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe, through Paris and London, through New York and Boston and Concord, through Church and State, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This is, and no mistake; and then begin, having a point d'appui, below freshet and frost and fire, a place where you might found a wall or a state, or set a lamp-post safely, or perhaps a gauge, not a Nilometer, but a Realometer, that future ages might know how deep a freshet of shams and appearances had gathered from time to time. If you stand right fronting and face to face to a fact, you will see the sun glimmer on both its surfaces, as if it were a cimeter, and feel its sweet edge dividing you through the heart and marrow, and so you will happily conclude your mortal career. Be it life or death, we crave only reality. If we are really dying, let us hear the rattle in our throats and feel cold in the extremities; if we are alive, let us go about our business."