Saturday, October 23, 2010

the great Optimism...

At about this time of year in 1839, Ralph Waldo Emerson was contemplating a new series of lectures and fretting over the limitations of the "lecturer's desk." No wonder as he had some slightly large ambitions.

    " What shall be the substance of my shrift?" he asked himself in his journal.  "Adam in the garden, I am to new-name all the beasts in the field and all the gods in the sky; I am to invite men drenched in Time to recover themselves and come out of Time and taste their immortal air.  I am to fire, with what skill I can, the artillery of sympathy and emotion.  I am to indicate constantly, thought all unworthy, the ideal and holy life, the life within life, the forgotten Good, the unknown Cause in which we sprawl and sin.  I am to try the magic of sincerity, that luxury permitted only to kings and poets.  I am to celebrate the spiritual in their infinite contrast to the mechanical powers and the mechanical philosophy of this time.  I am to console the brave sufferers under evils whose end they cannot see, by appeals to the great Optimism self affirmed in all bosoms."

   His friend and biographer James Elliot Cabot reports that "When the lectures were over, he felt that he had come short of his mark."

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