From The Divine Soil by John Burroughs


The lesson which life repeats and constantly enforces is, “Look under foot.” You are always nearer the divine and the sources of your power than you think. The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are. Do not despise your own place and hour. Every place is under the stars, every place is the centre of the world. Stand in your own dooryard and you have eight thousand miles of solid ground beneath you, and all the sidereal splendors overhead. The morning and the evening stars are no more in the heavens and no more obedient to the celestial impulses than the lonely and time-scarred world we inhabit. How the planet thrills and responds to the heavenly forces and occurrences we little know, but we get an inkling of it when we see the magnetic needle instantly affected by solar disturbances.


Then, sooner or later, comes the thought, What is it all for? And from the great abysm comes the echo, “What for?” Is it our human limitations, discipline of this earthly life, when we have to count the cost and ask what it is for, that makes us put the question to Infinite? When the cosmic show is over, what is the gain? When our universe is again a blank, who or what will have reaped benefit? Will the moral order which has been so slowly and painfully evolved, and which so many souls have struggled to live up to, still go on? Where? With whom? I seem to see dimly that you cannot bring the Infinite to book, that you cannot ask, What for? of the All—of that which has neither beginning nor end, neither centre nor circumference, neither fulfillment nor design, which knows neither failure nor success, neither loss nor gain, and which is complete in and of itself.