Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Emerson's "Nature"

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • #16
    Originally posted by Saggitario View Post
    There are still things to go out and experience first hand, so why are people so adamant about building their spirituality around the experiences of others?

    Exactly!!! I think that's why I like the pagan path. I was raised, essentially, Baptist. And I was spoon fed what I was supposed to belief and NOBODY ever questioned those beliefs. Once I started questioning and, like Emerson is saying, REALLY looking at what's around all the time, I started appreciating more too! Instead of regurgitating a stale dusty set of "pre-made" beliefs formed by other people, I've *experienced* god and felt the awesome-ness of spirituality for myself.

    So, anyway... how's everybody doing on reading? I'm almost done and I have LOTS of margin notes! I'm looking forward to discussing this.
    Last edited by Aveline; December 26th, 2007, 08:51 AM.
    sigpic



    " When the soul incarnates, it takes a body,
    so actually we are souls that possess a body
    and not really bodies that possess a soul."
    -- Draja Mickaharic

    Comment


    • #17
      How's the reading going for everyone? When do we want to get the discussion rolling? I'm thinking Monday.
      If you're lucky you'll find something that reflects you,
      helps you feel your life protects you,
      cradles you and connects you to everything.
      Dar Williams, "The Hudson"

      Comment


      • #18
        OK, everybody! Ready...set...discuss!

        I'll start with a general confession: The essay bugs me. I'd forgotten that Emerson's was a time of idealization of the rural life, and of Nature. He speaks in the most glowing terms of Nature, painting it as idyllic and serene (to contrast it more highly to the frantic world of Man). There was brief mention of decay, but he sort of glossed it over. And where was talk of predation and starvation among animals? Where were the blizzards and the cyclones and the floods? Nature isn't all prettiness and sweetness and light, and Emerson waltzes right past that.

        But even more irritating to me was his description of rural people who live on/with/off of the land. How rosily he paints a picture of their lives. How uncomplicated he makes their labors seem, how noble and charming their rustic poverty compared with the lassitude and debauchery of city-dwellers. Well, guess what, Ralph? Being a farmer is friggin' hard. It's full of back-breaking labor and animal manure. Try it for a season and then see how rosy your picture is. And poverty ain't noble and charming. It just sucks and makes life hard.

        I do understand what Emerson is saying about city life vs. country life, and about civilization vs. Nature. I've thought and felt similar things in my life. But I try to deal with the reality of Nature, experienced while in it, not just some pretty - and ultimately false - idea dreamed up at the window of my urban dwelling.

        OK. I've thrown down the first gauntlet. Who's next? Anybody else got a bone to pick with Emerson? Or with my analysis? What are other opinions in the room?
        If you're lucky you'll find something that reflects you,
        helps you feel your life protects you,
        cradles you and connects you to everything.
        Dar Williams, "The Hudson"

        Comment


        • #19
          Bad Ralph

          Emerson's idealism didn't bug me so much. I guess I can "forgive" it because he's trying to make a point and that can be hard to do if you argue against yourself. I saw the essay as less of a "good of nature vs evil of civilization" argument and more of a "simplify your life vs get so wrapped up in society that you forget the basics" sort of argument.
          sigpic



          " When the soul incarnates, it takes a body,
          so actually we are souls that possess a body
          and not really bodies that possess a soul."
          -- Draja Mickaharic

          Comment


          • #20
            I am still waiting for my library to find a copy for me to read.
            The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us.
            --Bill Watterson

            Comment


            • #21
              Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson

              When I saw the date on this (1836) I realised that I was going to have to make some compromises in order to be fair in discussing this essay. Emerson was a product of his time, no matter how original his take on Nature is with regards to his contemporaries. To illustrate my point consider this; “Beasts, fire, water, stones, and corn serve him”, obviously a hold over from his Unitarian upbringing.

              However, there is an exuberance in Emerson’s prose that helps him break with his past. His descriptions of nature are poetical in some instances, which should not come as a surprise, obvious in others, and very perceptive at their best.

              I particularly liked his observation of the landscape,

              The charming landscape which I saw this morning, is indubitably made up of some twenty or thirty farms. Miller owns this field, Locke that, and Manning the woodland beyond. But none of them owns the landscape. There is a property in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can integrate all the parts, that is, the poet. This is the best part of these men's farms, yet to this their warranty-deeds give no title.

              Emerson sees the land for what it is, there for our use and ours for as long as we use it, but even then it is only a small part of the whole. Ownership is a human concept that has value in human details but it sinks to insignificance when you stand back and look at the far horizon and see the true landscape.

              One of the things that I do like about this essay is the lack of condemnation that Emerson has for his fellows. He criticises them, which he is entitled to do, but he avoids the usual path of 19th Century writers, he cannot bring himself to say what an evangelical Christian would have done; you are wrong and foolish because you won’t accept what I say is right!

              To Emerson it seems, from my reading, that the truth of his comments is actually self-evident. He does not need a man-made bible to quote from because he has nature, which, as every Pantheist knows, is a superior bible in itself.

              I also liked his insistence that there’s no point going looking for beauty in the natural world because you won’t find what you expect. He’s right. If you go to a site demanding to be impressed because you’ve head it is impressive, then you will probably be disappointed. Not because it isn’t impressive but because you are looking for something predetermined in your own mind whereas the real beauty, the truly impressive beauty, is right there in front of you if only you would look at it with an open mind.

              I visited the Brenner Pass once, it lies in the Alps on the Italian/Austrian border at a height of 4495ft. It was a magnificent site and I could have spent all day there just taking in the view, but others were less impressed. They were looking for an impressive sight and, because it was so far up, they thought that they had seen one; but they never looked! If they had they would have seen the high Alpine pastures etched into the sides of the valley and above them the forest that survived where people could not, interspersed with narrow white rivers running at speed down to the valley floor. Above us still climbed the mountain tops, so high that they pierced the clouds. Emerson would have loved it there!

              Anyway, I digress. I am not sure if Emerson would have seen himself as a Pantheist in 1836 but his essay certainly has pantheistic themes that we can all recognise. Allowing for his style of writing, again a product of the time, Nature is quite a powerful essay in which I recognise many of my own feelings towards the natural world.

              Comment


              • #22
                Emerson-"Nature"

                Thanks TygerTyger for your post-both the thoughtfulness of it and the fact you posted it. That gave me a chance to assuage my guilt at having first suggested this reading and then disappearing for the better part of 6 months.

                I agree with much of your comment on Emerson's essay.

                My personal opinion is Emerson would certainly be reasonably thought of as a pantheist although he might not have used the word. The word only came into English usage in the early 1700's. Emerson and a good number of other Unitarians were highly influenced by the European theological and philosophical developments of the late 1700's. He gave up being a Unitarian at some point. He also was one of the more well known founders of Transcendentalism. One of the concepts there was that all we need of divinity is found in ourselves and nature or the natural world. So I would certainly see him as "pantheistic". I have not looked to see whether he ever used the word. I would expect he was familiar with it.

                At any rate, I thought the essay fit our pantheistic reading group.
                I don't need a god to make me safe
                I am safe by knowing I am where I should be
                a part of all that is

                Comment

                Working...
                X