February 17, 2013

An original relation to the universe

 This is the time of year when things get a bit crazy for El Cabrero, so it might be good to have a theme around here to tie things together. And the theme at hand is the work of America's first (or maybe second, behind Franklin) sage, or at least one of its leading early public intellectuals, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Over the coming weeks, I plan on sampling some of his essays and poems and trying to figure out whether he was a wise man, a wind bag, or some combination thereof.

And what better place to start than his signature essay and speech, "Nature," which has had a huge impact. I have to admit that when I first read it, two kinds of thoughts ran through my head. The first was, the boy can turn a phrase. The second was, this is SOOOOO pre-Darwinian as to seem loopy. Maybe it's just a temperamental thing, but I wonder about people who seem too smug about their place in the universe...

Anyhow, the first lines of the essay are pure Emerson and are keepers. They express his signature idea that the same spirit which inspired the prophets, poets and seers of old is right here with us today and that we shouldn't settle for their leavings but have and trust our own immediate experience. (That kind of thinking helped end his career in the Unitarian ministry, which was quite a bit more doctrinally strict then than today.)

Here goes:

Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchers of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we enjoy and original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out its faded wardrobe? The sun shines today also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.
I guess times have changed. These days, people tend to credit their own insights and neglect the wisdom of tradition.

ACTION ITEM. If you're concerned about the corrosive effects of money on our democracy, Tuesday is a day of action by West Virginians for Democracy. They plan to lobby legislators in support of a resolution calling for "ending the corrupt practices enabled by the Citizens United decision 3 years ago." They will hold a rally on the ground floor of the Capitol rotunda from 11:30-12:30. For more info, call WV Citizen Action Group at 304-346-5891. Read more here.

HEALTH CARE REFORM is coming. It looks like WV is taking some decent steps towards its implementation.

IT'S A LITTLE LATE FOR VALENTINE'S DAY, but here's a look at animal love.


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