Sunday, November 20, 2011

Emerson and me

Lately, I have tried to supplement my education by reading some of the American writers, with whom I have been woefully unfamiliar.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is not my friend, seeing that he had some unorthodox ideas about faith.  He did rebel in a way against New England spirituality, and again, I have no exact clue what may have been some issues there.  Of course, I have my suspicion that it has something to do with theology which came after Luther and if I got Emerson in my hands, I would simply send him to the Book of Concord...   :)

I got this book from the library, which might help me a bit:  "Ralph Waldo Emerson A Profile Edited by Carl Bode."  The book is both entertaining and heavy at the same time, employing some delicious language.  Here is a quote which my husband and I had a good laugh at last night, since we  have all made this observation frequently before.  Men have this endearing habit of solving all the worlds problems easily when they sit together.  It invariably happens especially when there are no women around to interject some inconvenient reality.

Emerson's good sense was so strong that it always seemed to be specially awakened in the company of those who were most in sympathy with his loftiest thinking.  Thus, when "the radical philosophers"  were gathered one evening at his house, the conversation naturally turned on the various schemes of benevolent people to reform the world.  Each person present had a panacea to cure all the distempers of society.  For hours the talk ran on, and before bedtime came, all the sin and misery of the world had been apparently expelled from it, and our planet was reformed and transformed into an abode of human angels, and virtue and happiness were the lot of each human being.  Emerson listened, but was sparing of speech.  Probably he felt, with Lamennais, that if facts did not resist thoughts, the earth would in a short time become uninhabitable.  At any rate, he closed the seance with the remark:  "A few of us old codgers meet at the fireside on a pleasant evening, and in thought and hope career, balloonlike, over the whole universe of matter and mind, finding no resistance to our theories, because we have, in the sweet delirium of our thinking, none of those obstructive facts which are the practical reformer the moment he takes single forward step;  then we go to bed;  and the pity of it is we wake up in the morning feeling that we are the same poor old imbeciles we were before!" 

My husband is a good man, he smiled right away in recognition.


elizabeth said...

Emerson is not my friend either for the same reasons you state. But his poem "Dirge" causes me to soften a little towards him.

Brigitte said...

I finished the book about Emerson tonight and enjoyed it very much, a interesting collection of memories and essays about him.

I've only read some of the essays, but perhaps I'll look up the "Dirge". Thanks Elizabeth.