Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
“But now we are a mob. Man does not stand in awe of man, nor is his genius admonished to stay at home, to put itself in communication with the internal ocean, but it goes abroad to beg a cup of water of the urns of other men. We must go alone. I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching. How far off, how cool, how chaste the persons look, begirt each one with a precinct or sanctuary! So let us always sit. Why should we assume the faults of our friend, or wife, or father, or child, because they sit around our hearth, or are said to have the same blood? All men have my blood, and I have all men’s. Not for that will I adopt their petulance or folly, even to the extent of being ashamed of it. But your isolation must not be mechanical, but spiritual, that is, must be elevation. At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door, and say,— `Come out unto us.’ But keep thy state; come not into their confusion. The power men possess to annoy me, I give them by a weak curiosity. No man can come near me but through my act. “What we love that we have, but by desire we bereave ourselves of the love.””
“Why should we assume the faults of our friend, or wife, or father, or child, because they sit around our hearth, or are said to have the same blood?”
There are only two reasons a person would “assume the faults” of others:
- They aren’t seen as faults.
- The assumer wants to be accepted.
#1 can be understandable if the assumer doesn’t have the information necessary to make an informed decision, or if they *do* have the information but don’t think that they are faults in the first place.
#2 comes from a basic instinct to “survive and procreate.” In the early history of human beings, no one could stand alone, isolated from a social group, and survive for long.
“At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door, and say,— `Come out unto us.’ But keep thy state; come not into their confusion.”
And now, about 180 years later, the knockers are on steroids. Stop letting them distract you! You have great things to do, and binge watching a season of 90 Day Fiance (giving myself the side eye here) probably isn’t going to help.
But it’s not just the “trash TV.” Political debate, health advice, personal development material… 80% of it is also trash, 10% is actually dangerous, and 10% is useful. And I think I’m being generous with the useful estimate.
“No man can come near me but through my act.”
To a large degree, you are responsible for what you let into your life, into your body, and into your mind. In modern times, the whole world is sitting “around our hearth.” Choose carefully who you’ll let stay, and who you will show to the door.
Thoughts? Feel free to drop them in the comments.