Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Arabian within...

This on how the Concord Transcendentalists read books found in Arthur Christy's "The Orient in American Transcendentalism" first published in 1932...

"How carefully did the Concordians read books? As a boy barely in his majority, Emerson confessed that his 'cardinal vice of intellectual dissipation' was 'sinful strolling from book to book, from care to idleness.' He added that with this malady he belonged to the incurables. Over two decades later, in 1843, he was still uncured. Some one must have taunted his with the remark, 'Your reading is irrelevant.' Emerson's answer was defiant. 'Yes, for you, but not for me. It makes no difference what I read. If it is irrelevant, I read it deeper. I read it until it is pertinent to me and mine...A good scholar will find Aristophanes and Hafiz and Rabelais full of American history.' Elsewhere he explained his meaning in other terms. 'Only so much of Arabian history can I read as I am Arabian within."

Blessings

2 comments:

Bill Baar said...

Wonder if Emerson would reconsider today given the detours and tangents we can find for ourselves online.

boston unitarian said...

Hey Bill,
Its a great question and one for which I would not hazzard a guess. I do know, however, that once written, he probably would not have defended it or engaged in any conversation about it.
He had a strong provincial streak and in many ways was quite conservative so I am thinking he may have used a different illustration...there I go guessing just after I said I wouldn't...
Good as always to hear from you...