Emerson Essay History Summary

Emerson Essay History Summary-82
Emerson opens his essay with a poem about the “lords of life,” those forces which affect our experience of life.Within this poem lies the problem Emerson seeks to address.We walk in confusion among these forces, including God (the “inventor of the game”), given the difficulty of gaining perspective on our life beyond our material existence and the everyday details that preoccupy us.

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This human mind wrote history, and this must read it. If the whole of history is in one man, it is all to be explained from individual experience.

There is a relation between the hours of our life and the centuries of time.

If we expect everything of the universe, we will be disappointed.

Better instead to expect nothing, and thus be thankful for anything we receive.

The key question raised is not what one does, but from what source one’s motivation derives from – the divine or the material?

Our life is filled with prospective directions with which to use our “vast-flowing vigor,” but the spirit flows through us when we are receptive to the “universal impulse to believe.” Our awareness of ourselves since the Fall of Man has robbed us of our ability to live in what we see – now, we project ourselves onto objects, including nature, art, other people, religions, and even God. For example, Emerson points to crimes performed out of love (e.g., murder, stealing) – the perpetrator believes it right and fair, but others find it destructive.Grief could not bring back his son, Waldo, who died in 1842.“An innavigable sea washes with silent waves between us and the things we aim at and converse with.” We are left neither better nor worse, untouched, even if we lost what we once thought of as a part of ourselves.To navigate the storm of confusion created by the lords of life – “illusion, temperament, succession, surface, surprise, reality, subjectiveness” – Emerson advocates “self-trust,” or rather, self-reliance.We should focus on the cultivation of our own thoughts (rather than those of society) and our relationship with God.Each law in turn is made by circumstances predominant, and the limits of nature give power to but one at a time. The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn, and Egypt, Greece, Rome, Gaul, Britain, America, lie folded already in the first man.Epoch after epoch, camp, kingdom, empire, republic, democracy, are merely the application of his manifold spirit to the manifold world.“Every evil and every good thing is a shadow which we cast.” We perceive the world in ways that validate our importance and our divine connection. We perceive the world in relative, rather than absolute, terms.Our soul only attains its “due sphericity” (completeness) when we learn from the specialized knowledge imparted by the perspectives of great minds.Without hurry, without rest, the human spirit goes forth from the beginning to embody every faculty, every thought, every emotion which belongs to it, in appropriate events.But the thought is always prior to the fact; all the facts of history preexist in the mind as laws.


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