Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ralph Waldo Emerson


Professor Burke asked me to put together the rule book for the group in a Latex document about how to manage your material on the group server.  I'll have more on that later.

While doing so, he dropped this: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of tiny minds" which is a dynamite quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.  After reading the entire essay, Self-Reliance, I now see that a lot of Professor Burke's insistence on being independent in your research has an intellectual brother in Emerson's writing.

Because I know you're a hipster, Diary, and wouldn't like me quoting the well known stuff, I'll give you my three favorite snippets:

"If I am the Devil's child, I will live then from the Devil"
"Your goodness must have some edge to it, —else it is none."
"As soon as he has once acted or spoken with eclat, he is a committed person, watched by the sympathy or the hatred of hundreds"

Man, I feel like that last one everyday.  The worst part about this essay as that no matter how much I am attracted to it, I can never pick it up as my personal creed.  The whole point of it is to not blindly believe in anything...that means I can't even believe the people who are not blindly believing in anything!  So meta!

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say `I think,' `I am,' but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.

I suppose no man can violate his nature. All the sallies of his will are rounded in by the law of his being, as the inequalities of Andes and Himmaleh are insignificant in the curve of the sphere.

Real subversive stuff! Till next time, Diary!

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