Our new homestead is nestled in a five mile wide valley with an 8,500 foot mountain range to the north and 12,000 foot ranges to the south and west. Our home sits in front of an Arabian horse farm that includes a 100-year old log cabin behind our house. The view from the laundry room window looks out on grazing horses, this old cabin and the Rocky Mountains.
On this morning, while starting another load of wash, the barn swallows were hopping along the cabin roof. Chirping and dancing and playfully wrestling, it seemed obvious they were enjoying their day. They had no schedule to keep, no self image to maintain, no goals to achieve. For these birds, just "being" was good enough. Having their health, their wings and their freedom, they had it all.
So why don't we enjoy that same kingly type of freedom and enjoyment?
Most of us have our health. We have minds so superior that we can fly, despite the fact that we have no wings. And arguably, we are the most free people on the planet.
So why does a barn swallow seem so much richer than the average man?
Perhaps it is because the bird is carrying such a lighter load. The bird has no ego to carry. He need not pretend he's successful - he just is. His desires are few - find food, water, shelter and in the spring, a mate. The bird isn't driven by desires to work at activities he hates in exchange for possessions or activities he enjoys. The bird isn't driven to achieve fame or fortune or the respect of his fellows. A bird is a bird and that is just fine with him. Unencumbered by the unnecessary, he flies free where he will.
Why are our loads so heavy? Because we want them to be.
Think about it. We want a new truck. Knowing the truck costs money, we take on additional work to earn the money, or take resources away from other wants in which to make the purchase. Soon we are sitting in our new truck. But wait, there are more consequences to us fulfilling that want. We now have insurance to pay. Maintenance to perform. Worry of scratches and dents. It turns out that the simple want of getting a new truck came with lots of strings attached. Strings that reduced our freedom and heavied our burden.
Worse yet, once we've fulfilled the want of that truck, are we done with our wants? Nope. Another want rushes in to fill the void. Now we want a snowmobile. Or a boat. Or a new house. On and on and on. We can never fulfill all our wants because imagination is unlimited. If we owned every possession on earth, we'd then want certain people. Certain achievements. Certain recognition.
We never stop the moment a want appears and count the cost of chasing it. We just chase. And add more burdens to our life. And stare out laundry room windows wishing we were barn swallows.
The reason the barn swallows are so free is because they have reduced their wants to basic necessity. Unencumbered with the unnecessary, they are free to do as they please.
I don't know if Thoreau gained his inspiration from barn swallows but his sage advice is certainly followed by them.
Mike Johnson is an energetic writer & entrepreneur. Learn more about Mike's offerings at www.MikeJohnson.biz