Ralph Waldo Emerson. Born at Boston, May 25, 1803; died at Concord,
April 27, 1882.
Teacher, Minister, Poet, Philosopher, Lecturer, and Essayist.
In all of these capacities, Emerson is a man committed to the pursuit of
"character," a pursuit of the "genuine man."
The marks of the "genuine man," he wrote are:
Emerson’s writings give us a "genuine man." His writings still
tell us how to lead genuine lives in a social and political context.
Let us listen...
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored
by little statesmen and philosophers and devines.
With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.
He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall.
Speak what you think now in hard words and tomorrow speak what tomorrow
thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said today.
"Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood."
Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and
Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that
ever took flesh.
To be great is to be misunderstood.
I do not despair of our republic.
We are not at the mercy of any waves of chance.
Citizens of feudal states are alarmed at our democratic institutions lapsing
into anarchy and the older and more cautious among ourselves are learning
from Europeans to look with some terror at our turbulent freedom.
It is said that in our license of constructing the Constitution and in
the despotism of public opinion, we have no anchor. Fisher Ames expressed
the popular security more wisely, when he compared a monarchy and a
republic, saying that a monarchy is a merchantman, which sails well, but
will sometimes strike on a rock and go to the bottom; whilst a republic is
a raft, which would never sink, but then your feet are always in the
It is natural to believe in great men. If the companions of our
childhood should turn out to be heroes, and their condition regal it would
not surprise us.
All mythology opens with demigods, and the circumstance is high and poetic;
that is, their genius is paramount.
In the legends of the Gautama, the first men ate the earth and found it
Nature seems to exist for the excellent.
The world is upheld by the veracity of good men: they make the earth
They who live with them find life glad and nutritious.
Life is sweet and tolerable only in our belief in such a society; and
actually or ideally we manage to live with superiors.
Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.
Accept the place the Divine Providence has found for you, the society of your
contemporaries, the connection of events.
Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the
genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely
trustworthy was seated in their heart, working through their hands,
predominating in all their being.
And we are now men, and must accept the highest mind the same transcendent
destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards
fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers and benefactors, obeying
the Almighty effort and advancing on chaos and the dark.