March 07, 2013

I embrace the common

The theme here lately is the work of American Transcendentalis Ralph Waldo Emerson. Today I'm finishing up a look at his 1837 essay/lecture The American Scholar. Part of its appeal lay in its embrace of everyday life and its call for intellectuals to escape from what would come to be called the ivory tower, a sentiment one can often hear expressed nearly 200 years later.

Here he is sounding like a prose version of Walt Whitman:

...I embrace the common, I explore and sit at the feet of the familiar, the low. Give me insight into to-day, and you may have the antique and future worlds.
Some of the last lines of this essay are particularly memorable, as Emerson calls for a new American educational system to break with European models:

We have listened too long to the courtly muses of Europe. The spirit of the American feeman is alreaded suspected to be timid, imitative, tame.
Instead, he calls for a break with the traditions of the past:
We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds. The study of letters shall no longer be a name for pit, for doubt, for sensual indulgence....A nation of men will for the first time exist, because each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires all men.
Pretty rousing stuff, but I'm not sure the American higher educational system has quite  lived up to Emerson's dreams. That's one aircraft carrier that's not ready for the "Mission Accomplished" banner.

SPEAKING OF "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED," we're coming up on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War.

STILL POPULAR AFTER ALL THESE YEARS. That would be raising the minimum wage.

PASS THE MEAT? Or pass on it?


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