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Monday, May 26, 2014
Ralph Waldo Emerson - Nature
"OUR age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? The sun shines to-day also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship."
This was written in 1836. It is difficult to imagine a time when our view was through the eyes of those who went before. We seem to be pressing ever forward. We only look back in nostalgia for those things that brought us pleasure in the past, never for instruction. I speak generally, but I cannot think of a time since Emerson when the present was absorbed in the past. I think this lack of interest is accelerating. Today the price of antiques is falling because they are not in fashion anymore. I tutor school children who only learn history in the classroom. It is not learned from the media or their families.
What would Emerson have thought if he knew we were picking up his essay now to see nature as seen through his eyes?
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Posted by Marilyn Litt at 10:56 PM