Thursday, November 29, 2012

Where's Waldo?

I need to live for 300 hundred more years so I can learn everything I don't currently know.

If Loving Jesus granted me those three hundred years, I could spend 250 of them studying Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I've been digging into this guy and he is blowing my mind. I brushed up against his writings in the past but never studied them. He was a giant in the 19th century, an influential man hanging with influential friends.He was a preacher, philosopher and a poet. An original thinker, which is the highest compliment I think you can give to a human. His essays and lectures are revered and packed with challenging ideas.

I have only read two of them so far. And let me tell you something. If you sit down to read one of Ralph Waldo Emerson's essays, you better set aside 30 or 45 minutes. This is richly written 19th century prose jam packed with ideas that will make your head swirl. You are not gonna get it if you have Justin Bieber on in the background.

Uses Of Great Men.

This one concerns the benefit to having original thinkers around. People who can wake you up and get you to see things differently or see things you haven't seen before.

His point is that greatly intelligent people raise the intelligence level of the communities they live in or the countries they live in or even the world. The evil voice inside my head questions the wisdom of that given the current state of this country. But we are obviously in a period of intellectual decline. Maybe in the 19th century people actually cared about learning and improving their minds.

Emerson said "Men who know the same things are not long the best company for each other." He felt it was best to mix things up, to trade on each other's intellects and experiences so we can grow as a species.

He also said "great men exist that there may be greater men." I love that. Suggesting that intelligence and innovation are not an end in and of themselves, that it is a perpetual process of enlightenment, one genius laying the groundwork for the next.

"The cheapness of man is every day's tragedy. It is as real a loss that others should be low, as that we should be low; for we must have a society." Those with the ability should lift others up; it is as detrimental for your brother to be down as it is for you to be down.

Waldo also slapped us around a bit.

"It is our system; and a man comes to measure his greatness by the regrets, envies and hatreds of his competitors." Keeping up with the Joneses, baby.

"It is the delight of vulgar talent to dazzle and to blind the beholder. True genius will liberate and add new senses." Beware of bullshit.

Self Reliance.

I really dug this essay. It's all about being your own man, independent, impervious to the opinions of others. Never conform.He says that "envy is ignorance and imitation is suicide." We are all unique and you have to be strong enough to live within your uniqueness and everybody else be damned. He says you have to trust yourself and speak your mind because if you don't someone else may say exactly what you were thinking and "we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another." BOOM.

You have to use your uniqueness to take what you know and improve upon it. Emerson says the point of learning is to give you what you need to push thinking further. That too many people learn stuff and leave it at that, essentially regurgitating what others have thought.

"Infancy conforms to nobody; all conform to it so that one babe commonly makes four or five out of the adults who prattle and play to it." I am proud to say I have never gooed and gagaed over a baby. I talk to them. However I also talk to my cats.

Another Waldo point: As soon as you start using your consciousness to edit what you want to say and think, you smother your essence a bit. He also encourages us not to be afraid to contradict ourselves. Thinking people change their minds; consistency is conformity. Whatever you say, say it with conviction and don't be afraid to change that point of view if your knowledge or experience informs you differently.

"Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist." "Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind." This is beautiful stuff.

This is my favorite. In talking about how we behave in groups, where we are afraid to just be ourselves, he talks about the forced smile. Describing how the smile is formed he says "the muscles, not spontaneously moved, but moved by a low usurping wilfulness, grow tight about the outline of the face with the most disagreeable sensation."

This guy is blowing my mind at a time when I am actively seeking to have my mind blown.

Who knew.

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