Emerson Lectures Essays

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Or, as a modern-day wise woman admonished in one of the greatest commencement addresses of all time, it pays not to “determine what [is] impossible before it [is] possible.” A century and a half before Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert illuminated how our present illusions hinder the happiness of our future selves, Emerson adds: The results of life are uncalculated and uncalculable. has a free Sunday digest of the week's most interesting and inspiring articles across art, science, philosophy, creativity, children's books, and other strands of our search for truth, beauty, and meaning. Subscribe to this free midweek pick-me-up for heart, mind, and spirit below — it is separate from the standard Sunday digest of new pieces: participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon.

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These are the works that established Emerson’s colossal reputation in America and found him admirers abroad as diverse as Carlyle, Nietzsche, and Proust.

The reasons for Emerson’s influence and durability will be obvious to any reader who follows the exhilarating, exploratory movements of his mind in this uniquely full gathering of his work.

If we will take the good we find, asking no questions, we shall have heaping measures. We may climb into the thin and cold realm of pure geometry and lifeless science, or sink into that of sensation.

1000 Words Essay - Emerson Lectures Essays

Between these extremes is the equator of life, of thought, of spirit, of poetry, — a narrow belt. It turns out somewhat new and very unlike what he promised himself. It takes me hundreds of hours a month to research and compose, and thousands of dollars to sustain. If you find any joy and value in what I do, please consider becoming a Sustaining Patron with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good lunch. Claim yours: is in its twelfth year and because I write primarily about ideas of a timeless character, I have decided to plunge into my vast archive every Wednesday and choose from the thousands of essays one worth resurfacing and resavoring.In writing Nature, Emerson drew upon material from his journals, sermons, and lectures.The lengthy essay was first published in Boston by James Munroe and Company in September of 1836. It was included in 1876 in the first volume (Miscellanies) of the Little Classic Edition of Emerson's writings, in 1883 in the first volume (Nature, Addresses, and Lectures) of the Riverside Edition, in 1903 in the first volume (Nature, Addresses, and Lectures) of the Centenary Edition, and in 1971 in the first volume (Nature, Addresses, and Lectures) of the Collected Works published by the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing.The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.Over the two millennia between his age and ours — one in which, caught in the cult of productivity, we continually forget that “how we spend our days is …how we spend our lives” — we’ve continued to tussle with the eternal question of how to fill life with more aliveness.If these are mean and malignant, their contentment, which is the last victory of justice, is a more satisfying echo to the heart than the voice of poets and the casual sympathy of admirable persons.Indeed, Emerson highlights the practice of kindness as a centerpiece of the full life, suggesting that our cynicism about the character and potential of others — much like our broader cynicism about the world — reflects not the true measure of their merit but the failure of our own imagination in appreciating their singular gifts: I think that however a thoughtful man may suffer from the defects and absurdities of his company, he cannot without affectation deny to any set of men and women a sensibility to extraordinary merit.The coarse and frivolous have an instinct of superiority, if they have not a sympathy, and honor it in their blind capricious way with sincere homage. I compared notes with one of my friends who expects everything of the universe and is disappointed when anything is less than the best, and I found that I begin at the other extreme, expecting nothing, and am always full of thanks for moderate goods.In a sentiment almost Buddhist in its attitude of accepting life exactly as it unfolds, and one that calls to mind his friend and Concord neighbor Thoreau’s superb definition of success, Emerson bows before the spiritual rewards of this disposition of gratefulness unburdened by fixation: In the morning I awake and find the old world, wife, babes, and mother, Concord and Boston, the dear old spiritual world and even the dear old devil not far off. The middle region of our being is the temperate zone.

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