Emerson Essay History Summary

Emerson Essay History Summary-50
Without hurry, without rest, the human spirit goes forth from the beginning to embody every faculty, every thought, every emotion which belongs to it, in appropriate events.

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As the air I breathe is drawn from the great repositories of nature, as the light on my book is yielded by a star a hundred millions of miles distant, as the poise of my body depends on the equilibrium of centrifugal and centripetal forces, so the hours should be instructed by the ages and the ages explained by the hours.

Of the universal mind each individual man is one more incarnation. Each new fact in his private experience flashes a light on what great bodies of men have done, and the crises of his life refer to national crises.

(However, Emerson is keen to note that the limitations of temperament are not physically determined, as suggested by “so-called sciences” like phrenology, but spiritually.) Elaborating on his analogy of the string of beads, Emerson argues the secret of the illusoriness of life derives from our need for variety and change, or “a succession of moods or objects.” We delight in a book or work of art, before moving on to the next, and do not ever return to the first with the same enthusiasm as we once had.

In this way, we do not expand beyond ourselves to grasp new ideas or develop new talents.

If we expect everything of the universe, we will be disappointed.

Better instead to expect nothing, and thus be thankful for anything we receive.Each law in turn is made by circumstances predominant, and the limits of nature give power to but one at a time. The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn, and Egypt, Greece, Rome, Gaul, Britain, America, lie folded already in the first man.Epoch after epoch, camp, kingdom, empire, republic, democracy, are merely the application of his manifold spirit to the manifold world.Finally, Emerson advises to live in moderation between the poles of power (life force) and form. Life would be easier if it only consisted of routine and known causes and effects.However, thankfully, life is full of surprises that shake our limited perception of reality, moments when God isolates us in the present and calls for spontaneity. Indeed, genius always contains such spontaneity, the exertion of power incidentally, rather than directly. Our power, our life force, derives from the Eternal, and so the results of life, our successes and failures, are “uncalculated and uncalculable.” While Emerson has thus far described life as a “flux of moods” and spontaneity, he adds our consciousness’ capacity to connect with the divine First Cause remains constant and helps us to evaluate our sensations and states of mind.We walk in confusion among these forces, including God (the “inventor of the game”), given the difficulty of gaining perspective on our life beyond our material existence and the everyday details that preoccupy us.Emerson hopes to shed light on how one might do so though, as nature comforts man by saying the lords will “wear another face” tomorrow, and man will rise above them.We live amid surfaces, and the true art of life is to skate well on them.” We should live in the day, in the moment.We should accept our circumstances and companions, and make the best of what life offers us.Unable to seriously examine the value of our everyday actions and efforts in the long run, “the pith of each man's genius contracts itself to a very few hours.” Hence, Emerson claims, the scarcity of original ideas and tales in the history of literature, and of spontaneous actions and opinions in society except for “custom and gross sense.” In our darker moods, like grief, we hope to find the sharp edges of reality and truth.However, Emerson argues such moods only teach us how shallow they are.


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