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Monday, June 18, 2012

Self-Reliance (Pt. 2)

More Emerson quotes with my analysis/ramblings:

"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 the 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."

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

This quote summed up well a passage in which Emerson encouraged his reader to have a flexible mind, and to always look at reality, truth, what actually is, and to evaluate things in that light. That even if one has made up one's mind about something, to be prepared to accept new evidence and change one's mind, if reality and truth demand it. It's great advice, "Make the best decision based on the information you have. Know what you think and believe. And be willing to listen to new truths as you encounter them and incorporate them into your understanding." This is the essence of intellectual growth.

"To be great is to be misunderstood."

"The centuries are conspirators against the sanity and authority of the soul. Time and space are but physiological colors which the eye makes, but the soul is light; where it is, is day; where it was, is night; and history is an impertinence and an injury, if it be any thing more than a cheerful apologue or parable of my being and becoming."

"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 today. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence."

"I must be myself. I cannot break myself any loner for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier."

"Insist on yourself; never imitate.... Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession."

This brings to mind a quote from Pythagoras: "No one is free who is not master of himself." I love what Emerson has to say here at the end about how much we can do with our own gifts and how little we can do with the gifts of others. How often have we see people who seek to imitate a gift that they do not truly possess to meet someone else's expectations or please someone? The outcome is always the same: their efforts are mediocre at best, because their hearts aren't in it, because it's not true to themselves. They are betraying their own gifts, talents, uniquenesses to meet some external expectation.

But contrast that with seeing someone who presents his own unique gift at every moment "with the cumulative force" of his whole life's cultivation. We have all seen these people: the musician who comes alive on stage interacting with his or her instrument, making beautiful music; the teacher who loves learning and can share it with his or her students in creative ways; the writer who creates text that engages people, and moves them beyond themselves, etc. There are few things more inspiring than watching someone embrace his or her true gift and share it with the world. When one embraces one's own uniqueness, that is the beginning of greatness.

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