Thursday, May 25, 2017

Emerson: Tomorrow is a new day!

First there is this from The Writer's Almanac:

Today is the birthday of philosopher, poet, and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson (books by this author). He was born in Boston in 1803, and his father's unmarried sister, Mary Moody Emerson, was a great influence on him. She wasn't formally educated, but she was sharp, and she was widely read. She introduced young Waldo, as he was called, to a wide variety of philosophies and spiritual beliefs, including the Hindu scriptures that he would return to in later years, and it was from her that he got many of the aphorisms he passed on to his children, like "Always do what you are afraid to do," and "Despise trifles," and "Oh, blessed, blessed poverty." He entered Harvard at 14, and began keeping journals, which he called his "savings bank;" when he became friends with Thoreau in 1837, he suggested that Thoreau, too, might benefit from keeping a journal.

In his book Nature (1836), Emerson first introduced the concept of Transcendentalism - the idea that spiritual truth could be gained by intuition rather than by established doctrine or text - and he would become a leader of that movement. He was a popular public speaker, and gave more than 1,500 speeches in his lifetime.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."

And, "Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."


And there is this personal postscript:
Tomorrow is a new day, and this blog will resume with a "new" direction (i.e., a return to guilty pleasures) and different content (i.e., reviews and reader-responses). Stay tuned.

Now, tell me about your favorite Emerson reading experience. Or let's talk about Transcendentalism, a quite sensible approach to life. Perhaps this link to my BookLoons review of American Transcendentalism: A History by Philip F. Gura will help get the discussion started.


  1. I've always liked the philosophy that each of us must find a unique place in the world, and a unique way of relating to it, Tim. We need that wide variety and diversity

    1. Margot, Emerson was clearly onto something both persuasive and provocative in his and our time.

    2. Tim,

      What little experience I have with Emerson is certainly not the same as yours. I do like some of his poetry, though, for a variety of reasons.

      I am most familiar with one line from Emerson's essay "Nature." It is as follows:

      "If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown!"

      The reason I am familiar with this is simple: Isaac Asimov wrote a short story titled "Nightfall" which is based on the above quotation. However, he had a very different idea about the effect on humanity.

      And, Lord Byron wrote "Darkness," in which he speculates as to the effect if the sun went out and all we had were the stars. He doesn't agree with Emerson either.

      If you are curious about these works, I did a brief blog post on them at. . .

      I am looking forward to your posts on Emerson.

      I also heard of an anecdote regarding Emerson and Thoreau. It was the time of the Mexican-American war and Thoreau refused to pay the tax which he felt supported the war, which he was opposed to. He ended up in jail, and one day Emerson strolled by and said to him, "What are you doing in there?" and Thoreau replied, "What are you doing out there?"

    3. Fred, I think I would have enjoyed knowing Emerson. Thoreau? Not so much. Hawthorne? I suppose. Melville? Yes! The Alcotts? Interesting folks. Margaret Fuller? Yes! In other words, saying it differently, I would like to live then rather than now. Even without modern conveniences, then appeals to me.

  2. I really like reading Emerson.

    I remember liking nature. Though I basically disagree with his views of on the world as presented in this work, I love what his enthusiasm about nature and humanity.

    1. Yes, his hints of Romanticism are very interesting. See my comment to Fred above.

  3. Fred: that inspired his essay, "Civil Disobedience" which was once required reading in all high schools... nowadays they probably don't even mention T's name...

    1. Also inspired the play, "The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail."

    2. Mudpuddle,

      I suspected there might be some link there, but I never was sure.

  4. Tim,

    My attitude is somewhat different. The Past might be a great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

    Interesting convergence: the Classic SF Book Group is now discussing time travel stories.