Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
“And now at last the highest truth on this subject remains unsaid; probably cannot be said; for all that we say is the far-off remembering of the intuition. That thought, by what I can now nearest approach to say it, is this. When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way; you shall not discern the foot-prints of any other; you shall not see the face of man; you shall not hear any name;——the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new. It shall exclude example and experience. You take the way from man, not to man. All persons that ever existed are its forgotten ministers. Fear and hope are alike beneath it. There is somewhat low even in hope. In the hour of vision, there is nothing that can be called gratitude, nor properly joy. The soul raised over passion beholds identity and eternal causation, perceives the self-existence of Truth and Right, and calms itself with knowing that all things go well. Vast spaces of nature, the Atlantic Ocean, the South Sea, —long intervals of time, years, centuries, —are of no account. This which I think and feel underlay every former state of life and circumstances, as it does underlie my present, and what is called life, and what is called death.”
I’ve always thought that it was a bit ironic that I was using another man’s words to base my ideas of self-reliance on. But just as we leave the raft behind, when we get to the place where we can live to the tune of our iron string, we transcend those things that we’ve built our lives upon, and become something completely new.
We might use Socrates’ hammer, Emerson’s wood, some glass from Einstein, a bit of carpet from Aurelius, the historical Buddha’s tape measure, Christ’s concrete, Hayes’ plastic… but the house of ourselves is greater than the sum of it’s parts.
Thoughts? Feel free to drop them in the comments.