Emerson's dominant belief was in the moral sentiment. In all the focus on "Self-reliance" the reality that the self to be relied on was the self that lived in concert with the universal is often lost. It does not descend to us, we rise to it. It is the work of life and crowns the days...This from "Perpetual Forces":
"See how rich life is ; rich in private talents, each of which charms us in turn and seems the best. If we hear music we give up all to that ; if we fall in with a cricket-club and see the game masterly played, the best player is the first of men ; if we go to the regatta, we forget the bowler for the stroke oar ; and when the soldier comes home from the fight, he fills all eyes. But the soldier has the same admiration of the great parliamentary debater. And poetry and literature are disdainful of all these claims beside their own. Like the boy who thought in turn each one of the four seasons the best, and each of the three hundred and sixty-five days in the year the crowner. The sensibility is all...
By this wondrous susceptibility to all the impressions of Nature the man finds himself the receptacle of celestial thoughts, of happy relations to all men. The imagination enriches him, as if there were no other ; the memory opens all her cabinets and archives ; Science her length and breadth ; Poetry her splendor and joy and the august circles of eternal law. These are means and stairs for new ascensions of the mind. But they are nowise impoverished for any other mind, not tarnished, not breathed upon ; for the mighty Intellect did not stoop to him and become property, but he rose to it and followed its circuits. " It is ours while we use it, it is not ours when we do not use it.
And so, one step higher, when he comes into the realm of sentiment and will. He sees the grandeur of justice, the victory of love, the eternity that belongs to all moral nature. He does not then invent his sentiment or his act, but obeys a pre-existing right which he sees. We arrive at virtue by taking its direction instead of imposing ours..."