For whatever reason, I’ve never read anything by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Well, that changed after 26+ years, and maybe that changed because of the physical setting and circumstances of my life. So, like Thoreau, here are a mass of quotes from ‘Self-Reliance’:
“To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men—that is genius.
A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards or sages (hehe…)
In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lessons for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the would cry of voices is on the other side. Else tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.
We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents
Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providences has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely truth-worthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being.
Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better security of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in the most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.
Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist
He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.
Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that and this; the only right is what is after my constitution; the only wrong what is against it.
I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions.
I shun father and mother and wife and brother when my genius calls me.
I do not wish to expiate, but to live. My life is for itself and not for a spectacle.
I cannot consent to pay for a privilege where I have intrinsic right.
It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
Do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself.
To be great is to be misunderstood.
When private men shall act with original views, the luster will be transferred from the actions of kings to those of gentlemen.
There is […] the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root there is no less. Its nature is satisfied and satisfies nature in all moments alike. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.
If we live truly, we shall see truly. It is as easy for the strong man to be strong, as it is for the weak to be weak. When we have new perception, we shall gladly disburden the memory of its hoarded treasures as old rubbish. When a man lives with God, his voice shall be as sweet as the murmur of the brook and the rustle of the corn.
We must go alone. I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.
Why should we assume the faults of our friend, or wife, or father, or child, because they sit around our hearth, or are said to have the same blood? All men have my blood, and I all men’s. Not for that will I adopt their petulance or folly, even to the extent of being ashamed of it.
And truly it demands something godlike in him who has cast off the common motives of humanity and has ventured to trust himself for the taskmaster. High be his heart, faithful his will, clear his sight, that he may in good earnest be doctrine, society, law, to himself, that a simple purpose may be to him as strong as iron necessity is to others!
The sinew and heart of men seem to be drawn out, and we are becoming timorous, desponding whimperers. We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. […] We shun the rugged battle of fate, where strength is born.
Insist of yourself; never imitate.
Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much.
The great genius returns to essential man.
He who knows that power is inborn, that he is weak because he has looked for good out of him and elsewhere, and, so perceiving, throws himself unhesitatingly on this thought, instantly rights himself, stands in the erect position, commands his limbs, works miracles; just as a man who stands on his feet is stronger than a man who stands on his head.
Nothing can bring your peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”