Hawthorne’s Chamber

The following passage is found in the notebooks of Nathaniel Hawthorne, dated Salem, October 4, 1836, Union Street. To me, it speaks volumes about the human heart and its longing that is every bit as important today as it was then. But what is most enchanting is it allows me to converse with the past as though Nathaniel was sitting right here, at this moment. It is the written word which allows this sublime bit of magic to take place. Every time we open a book or write a letter to someone, we are emulating the philosopher’s long conversation across the miles.

I often come back to this passage time and time again when I’m in need of guidance or should I say, a jewel on the road to awareness. I hope it leaves you with as much encouragement as it has me.

Best Regards, JC

Here I sit in my accustomed chamber, where I used to sit in days gone by… Here I have written many tales, many which have burned to ashes, many which have doubtless deserved the same fate. This claims to be called a haunted chamber, for thousands upon thousands of visions have appeared to me in it; and some few of them have become visible to the world. If ever I should have a biographer, he ought to make great mention of this chamber in my memoirs, because so much of my lonely youth was wasted here, and here my mind and character were formed; and here I have been glad and hopeful and here I have been despondent. And here I sat a long, long time, waiting patiently for the world to know me, and sometimes wondering why it did not know me sooner, or whether it would ever know me at all, at least, till I was in my grave. And sometimes it seemed as if I were already in the grave, with only life enough to be chilled and benumbed. But oftener I was happy, at least, as happy as I then knew to be, or was aware of the possibility of being.

By and by the world found me in my lonely chamber, and called me forth, not, indeed, with a loud roar of acclamation, but rather still, small voices, and forth I went, but found nothing in the world that I thought preferable to my old solitude till now… And now I begin to understand why I was imprisoned so many years in this lonely chamber and why I could never break through the viewless bolts and bars; for if I had sooner made my escape into the world, I would have grown hard and rough, and been covered with earthly dust, and my heart might have become callous by rude encounters with the multitudes… But living in solitude till the fullness of time has come, I still kept the dew of my youth and the freshness of my heart… I used to think I could imagine all passions, all feelings, and states of the heart and mind; but how little did I know! Indeed, we are but shadows; we are not endowed with real life, and that which seems most real about us is but the thinnest substance of a dream, till the heart be touched. That touch creates us, then we begin to be, thereby we are beings of reality and inheritors of eternity.

-Nathaniel Hawthorne

©jc2019-9

*Images courtesy of Pixabay

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