Friday, October 16, 2009

what is life but the angle of vision...

I come from practical stock and grew up in a practical place (and feel myself the better for it) and now live in a region (New England) which, traditionally, has valued the practical arts. Yet my skills are decidedly not practical ones in any traditional sense. I think one of the reasons I have always loved Emerson is that in him I receive absolution for this shortcoming!
This from his "Natural History of the Intellect"

"My belief in the use of a course on philosophy is that the student shall learn to appreciate the miracle of the mind; shall learn its subtle but immense power, or shall begin to learn it; shall come to know that in seeing and in no tradition he must find what truth is; that he shall see in it the source of all traditions, and shall see each one of them as better or worse statement of its revelations; shall come to trust it entirely, as the only true; to cleave to God against the name of God...

But there is still another hindrance, namely, practicality. We must have a special talent, and bring something to pass. Ever since the Norse heaven made the stern terms of admission that a man must do something excellent with his hands or feet, or with his voice, eyes, ears, or with his whole body, the same demand has been made in Norse earth. Yet what we really want is not a haste to act, but a certain piety toward the source of action and knowledge. In fact we have to say that there is a certain beatitude, - I can call it nothing less, - to which all men are entitled, tasted by them in different degrees, which is a perfection of their nature, and to which their entrance must be in every way forwarded. Practical men, though they could lift the globe, cannot arrive at this. Something very different has to be done, - the availing our-selves of every impulse of genius, an emanation of the heaven it tells of, and the resisting this conspiracy of men and material things against the sanitary and legitimate inspirations of the intellectual nature.

What is life but the angle of vision? A man is measured by the angle at which he looks at objects. What is life but what a man is thinking of all day? This is his fate and his employer. Knowing is the measure of the man. By how much we know, so much we are."

1 comment:

PeaceBang said...

I was just saying to a friend that I felt like a secret failure because I was taught NO practical skills growing up. I can cook. I can keep house and stay financially organized and other basic life skills but I can't change a tire or make or fix anything. "In a true crisis," I said,"I should be the first one they flay and eat." So, um, thanks for this.