Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson were friends. The late 1800s and early 1900s in New England produced a wealth of creative individuals who touched their times with cultural influence.
When Thoreau was in jail for refusing to pay taxes, Emerson went to see him. He said- "Henry, what are you doing here"?!
To which Thoreau replied - "Ralph, what are you doing NOT here ?!
What was the decision they made which made the difference ?
Thoreau considered it his moral right and duty to protest and resist what he perceived as wrongs of society. And he lived his life faithful to those beliefs.
Emerson believed, that by consenting to the established system of his time, he could reach more people, and offer a higher vision enabling them to find meaning in their lives, regardless of demands of routine and rote. He too, lived his life true to his belief.
Neither lived ideally happy lives. Yet both influenced their times, and still present each generation with the same question - requiring decision.
Both left an inspirational legacy of some of the most beautiful prose, and lofty ideals, of human experience. Who was right ? Who was wrong ? Both, to the first question. Neither, to the second question. Because they each lived true to their vision, and left behind a record of ideals that gave meaning to their lives.
At least, that's the way I see it. Both cared. Our decisions should always be as true to what we can put heart and soul into, as is possible in our circumstance. Then, we can know - we tried our best.
Each generation faces decision.We need to give thought and attention to what we would like to bring to our times. This is what gives direction to our lives, and will motivate us through the years.