Category Archives: Self-Reliance

The Ever-Blessed ONE : Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 030

Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“This is the ultimate fact which we so quickly reach on this, as on every topic, the resolution of all into the ever-blessed ONE. Self-existence is the attribute of the Supreme Cause, and it constitutes the measure of good by the degree in which it enters into all lower forms. All things real are so by so much virtue as they contain. Commerce, husbandry, hunting, whaling, war, eloquence, personal weight, are somewhat, and engage my respect as examples of its presence and impure action. I see the same law working in nature for conservation and growth. Power is in nature the essential measure of right. Nature suffers nothing to remain in her kingdoms which cannot help itself. The genesis and maturation of a planet, its poise and orbit, the bended tree recovering itself from the strong wind, the vital resources of every animal and vegetable, are demonstrations of the self-sufficing, and therefore self-relying soul.”

It may seem all new agey and woo woo, but we – you, I, and literally everything in the universe, are one. I think that’s what Ralphy means by the “ever-blessed One.”

No, this doesn’t mean that you are all things, like some spiritual teachings say. But you are an integral part of all things. An important cog in the workings of the universe. Just like your liver is a part of your body, and necessary for it to function, you are a part of the universe, and necessary for it to function.

Even when your consciousness is gone, and your body is decaying, it will provide for the earth in ways that we are only beginning to understand.

Again… we are all waves on the ocean of life – and the ocean would be incomplete without each and every one of them.

Thoughts? Feel free to drop them in the comments.


Do Nothing and Die : Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 029

Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“Life only avails, not the having lived. Power ceases in the instant of repose; it resides in the moment of transition from a past to a new state, in the shooting of the gulf, in the darting to an aim. This one fact the world hates, that the soul becomes; for that for ever degrades the past, turns all riches to poverty, all reputation to a shame, confounds the saint with the rogue, shoves Jesus and Judas equally aside. Why, then, do we prate of self-reliance? Inasmuch as the soul is present, there will be power not confident but agent. To talk of reliance is a poor external way of speaking. Speak rather of that which relies, because it works and is. Who has more obedience than I masters me, though he should not raise his finger. Round him I must revolve by the gravitation of spirits. We fancy it rhetoric, when we speak of eminent virtue. We do not yet see that virtue is Height, and that a man or a company of men, plastic and permeable to principles, by the law of nature must overpower and ride all cities, nations, kings, rich men, poets, who are not.”

There is only power in action.

In the template for these entries, I usually use “blah blah blah” as a placeholder until I’m ready to write my part. Because as I’m saying it, that’s all it is. Blah blah blah… it’s nothing until it’s put into actual practice out there in the real world.

Do nothing –> get nothing. Actually, it’s more dangerous than that. Do nothing –> degrade.

Thoughts? Feel free to drop them in the comments.


Transcendence : Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 028

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.


A Note on the Self-Reliance Series

The Self-Reliance series hasn’t been abandoned – it’s on a hiatus for about four more weeks.

I’ve decided that this six-week study of the pivots from Dr. Steven Hayes’ book “A Liberated Mind” will add more value to our lives.

I’ve also decided that there’s nothing wrong with stopping something that is less valuable, no longer valuable, or going on a break. Emerson doesn’t care. I may be flaky when it comes to my interests, but that’s OK. More variety can be a good thing!

But I’m also keeping in mind that too much variety can keep us from going deep – which is why I’m focusing on one thing at a time, with a plan to return to my previous project in the future.

Just another example of my heart vibrating to that iron string.

Now you – go and vibrate the fuck out of today!


Let The Raft Go : Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 027

Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“This should be plain enough. Yet see what strong intellects dare not yet hear God himself, unless he speak the phraseology of I know not what David, or Jeremiah, or Paul. We shall not always set so great a price on a few texts, on a few lives. We are like children who repeat by rote the sentences of grandames and tutors, and, as they grow older, of the men of talents and character they chance to see, —painfully recollecting the exact words they spoke; afterwards, when they come into the point of view which those had who uttered these sayings, they understand them, and are willing to let the words go; for, at any time, they can use words as good when occasion comes. If we live truly, we shall see truly. It is as easy for the strong man to be strong, as it is for the weak to be weak. When we have new perception, we shall gladly disburden the memory of its hoarded treasures as old rubbish. When a man lives with God, his voice shall be as sweet as the murmur of the brook and the rustle of the corn.”

This reminds me of the parable of the raft from Buddhism. A person uses a raft to cross a river, but once they don’t need the raft anymore they leave it be. Why would they continue to carry it? They can point others to the raft, explain how they used it to cross the river, but carrying it around for the rest of their life? Not necessary.

Sure, maybe they’ll encounter another river. But there will usually be another raft, sometimes exactly the same as the previous one, sometimes different.

Some may not even need the raft – maybe they can swim well enough to cross the river without it.

Some may need a different raft, one that is larger or smaller, with bigger or smaller oars.

Some may need to strap themselves in more tightly than others, holding on for dear life when the river gets rough.

Some may may prefer to pitch and yaw with the rolls of the river.

I’ve consumed a ridiculous amount of self-help material in the 49 years that I’ve been alive. Some of it served me after encountering it, while much of it was complete crap. But even most of the useful stuff has had a shelf life – useful at the time I read it, but when I got across that particular river in my life, it was time to put it down.

What do you think about this passage? Have an opinion you’d like to share? Feel free to drop your own thoughts in the comments.


Enough As You Are : Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 026

Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say `I think,’ `I am,’ but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.”

Doh! This whole project is about quoting a “saint or sage.” But don’t they have something to teach us?

Sometimes. But often, instead of learning, we just parrot what they say and follow them blindly. Sometimes they only appear to be spiritual leaders, and following them can lead to horrifying  results.

Those roses he mentions don’t appear out of thin air. Every single stage of their existence depends on something that came before, as far back as there was a before. And now, they depend on and are fed by the soil, the sun, the rain, and the air. But they don’t become them – they grow from them, becoming themselves in the process, each one unique no matter how similar they appear.

“There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence.”

I’ve never liked the phrasing of this idea – the word “perfect” has too many associations with it for me – I think of a perfect circle or a perfect square. But there isn’t an equivalent when it comes to a perfect human being. But a complete human being? Hell, a complete being, with no need to improve? That’s something that I can get behind.

Not that we shouldn’t want to improve – but we don’t have to. At all. You are what you are right now, and that’s OK. There’s a word for something that continues to grow unchecked without regard for anything but it’s own increase – cancer.

What do you think about this passage? Have an opinion you’d like to share? Feel free to drop your own thoughts in the comments.


My God Is Bigger Than Your Box : Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 025

Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“The relations of the soul to the divine spirit are so pure, that it is profane to seek to interpose helps. It must be that when God speaketh he should communicate, not one thing, but all things; should fill the world with his voice; should scatter forth light, nature, time, souls, from the centre of the present thought; and new date and new create the whole. Whenever a mind is simple, and receives a divine wisdom, old things pass away, —means, teachers, texts, temples fall; it lives now, and absorbs past and future into the present hour. All things are made sacred by relation to it, —one as much as another. All things are dissolved to their centre by their cause, and, in the universal miracle, petty and particular miracles disappear. If, therefore, a man claims to know and speak of God, and carries you backward to the phraseology of some old mouldered nation in another country, in another world, believe him not. Is the acorn better than the oak which is its fulness and completion? Is the parent better than the child into whom he has cast his ripened being? Whence, then, this worship of the past? The centuries are conspirators against the sanity and authority of the soul. Time and space are but physiological colors which the eye makes, but the soul is light; where it is, is day; where it was, is night; and history is an impertinence and an injury, if it be any thing more than a cheerful apologue or parable of my being and becoming.”

“We’ve always done it that way!” The siren song of stagnation.

“Our way of doing it is the only way!” Ego run amok.

“You must believe as we believe, or off to eternal burning you go!” Sorry, but God is bigger than your box.

Find the Source for yourself. Of course, take the advice of others who have been there and done it. In the beginning, you may need to take a whole lot of advice, run nearly everything by someone else – I had to do this in order to quit alcohol and drugs. But don’t get stuck there.

You may be an acorn now, but if you take care of yourself and allow others to help, you can become a tree.

What do you think about this passage? Have an opinion you’d like to share? Feel free to drop your own thoughts in the comments.


Justification for Self-Reliance : Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 024

Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“The magnetism which all original action exerts is explained when we inquire the reason of self-trust. Who is the Trustee? What is the aboriginal Self, on which a universal reliance may be grounded? What is the nature and power of that science-baffling star, without parallax, without calculable elements, which shoots a ray of beauty even into trivial and impure actions, if the least mark of independence appear? The inquiry leads us to that source, at once the essence of genius, of virtue, and of life, which we call Spontaneity or Instinct. We denote this primary wisdom as Intuition, whilst all later teachings are tuitions. In that deep force, the last fact behind which analysis cannot go, all things find their common origin. For, the sense of being which in calm hours rises, we know not how, in the soul, is not diverse from things, from space, from light, from time, from man, but one with them, and proceeds obviously from the same source whence their life and being also proceed. We first share the life by which things exist, and afterwards see them as appearances in nature, and forget that we have shared their cause. Here is the fountain of action and of thought. Here are the lungs of that inspiration which giveth man wisdom, and which cannot be denied without impiety and atheism. We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity. When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do nothing of ourselves, but allow a passage to its beams. If we ask whence this comes, if we seek to pry into the soul that causes, all philosophy is at fault. Its presence or its absence is all we can affirm. Every man discriminates between the voluntary acts of his mind, and his involuntary perceptions, and knows that to his involuntary perceptions a perfect faith is due. He may err in the expression of them, but he knows that these things are so, like day and night, not to be disputed. My wilful actions and acquisitions are but roving; —the idlest reverie, the faintest native emotion, command my curiosity and respect. Thoughtless people contradict as readily the statement of perceptions as of opinions, or rather much more readily; for, they do not distinguish between perception and notion. They fancy that I choose to see this or that thing. But perception is not whimsical, but fatal. If I see a trait, my children will see it after me, and in course of time, all mankind, —although it may chance that no one has seen it before me. For my perception of it is as much a fact as the sun.”

I’m a skeptic when it comes to spiritual things. Not a “Nope, if there isn’t any real, peer reviewed, accepted by authorities in the field evidence then it’s a bunch of bullshit” kind of skeptic (although there’s nothing wrong with that in some areas), but more of the “evidence is necessary, but experiential, anecdotal, personal evidence must be considered” type. Claims must be tested – but testing them in light of my own experience is sufficient if they produce the results I’m after. People (like past Lyman) tend to talk about things like the Placebo Effect in a pejorative sense – but why not use it to your own advantage? Without harming others, of course.

We are all one, and by “We” I’m referring to everything, not just human beings. It’s all connected in the same way that your little finger is connected to your big toe – all part of one body. My understanding of this passage is that we are connected to a Source that is greater than ourselves. It isn’t that it guides us like some old man in the sky letting us know what to do next – it is a part of us, like a child is a part of their parent.

Like a wave is part of the ocean.

We are all, literally, children of God (for lack of a better term).

*That* is the Self that I think he’s referring to. Brings a whole new dimension to the title “Self-Reliance”, don’t you think?

That is where the justification for relying on yourself comes from – your connection to this higher power, whatever you want to call it.

Examine your thoughts and feelings – don’t discount even the most seemingly insignificant of them – even the “bad” ones, even the painful ones. They all have something to tell you, whether you want to get the message or not.

What do you think about this passage? Have an opinion you’d like to share? Feel free to drop your own thoughts in the comments.


Greatness : Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 023

Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“The world has been instructed by its kings, who have so magnetized the eyes of nations. It has been taught by this colossal symbol the mutual reverence that is due from man to man. The joyful loyalty with which men have everywhere suffered the king, the noble, or the great proprietor to walk among them by a law of his own, make his own scale of men and things, and reverse theirs, pay for benefits not with money but with honor, and represent the law in his person, was the hieroglyphic by which they obscurely signified their consciousness of their own right and comeliness, the right of every man.”

This one difficult for me to understand. I think that he’s saying that royalty is the symbol for the greatness (even if they aren’t really so great) we know, at some level and to some degree, exists in every human being.

Celebrities… they’re just like us!

What do you think about this passage? Have an opinion you’d like to share? Feel free to drop your own thoughts in the comments.



Your Action Matters : Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 022

Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“Our reading is mendicant and sycophantic. In history, our imagination plays us false. Kingdom and lordship, power and estate, are a gaudier vocabulary than private John and Edward in a small house and common day’s work; but the things of life are the same to both; the sum total of both is the same. Why all this deference to Alfred, and Scanderbeg, and Gustavus? Suppose they were virtuous; did they wear out virtue? As great a stake depends on your private act to-day, as followed their public and renowned steps. When private men shall act with original views, the lustre will be transferred from the actions of kings to those of gentlemen.”

Status. Doesn’t. Matter.

It’s our actions that matter. Public or private, with or without fanfare.

It’s our day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment collective actions that create the world we live in. The single actions of Donald Trump, or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or Bill Gates, or any other person with power may reach further than ours ever could. But our own actions, right here, right now, have more of an effect on the world we live in, right here, right now, than theirs ever could. Especially if the action we take is capitulation to their power.

Did anything in that passage resonate with you? Have an opinion you’d like to share? Feel free to drop your own thoughts in the comments.