Thursday, July 27, 2017

Ralph Waldo Emerson and a yellow-brick road to Puritans

So, as I announced in a previous posting, I began reading about Ralph Waldo Emerson.
But that led me to reading about Unitarianism.
And then that led me to reading about Harvard Divinity School.
But then I wound up reading about Congregationalism.
Well, of course, the next link backward in the seemingly endless chain was Puritans.

At this point, I've thrown up my hands in frustration. Everything I read sends me backward in time to something else. The antecedents seems endless.

Hey, does something like that ever happen to you? Let's talk about the problem.

Perhaps I should stop now and face up to the fact that I should read more about Puritans, colonial America, and the connections that will eventually take me back to where I had meant to start: Ralph Waldo Emerson. Otherwise, how will I properly understand Emerson's life and environment. 

Now, what did this posting signify? Probably not much. But it is, I guess, evidence of the sorry state of my Swiss-cheese mind. Moreover, it demonstrates that I have hit a helluva snag in my previously announced plans to read about Emerson, Hawthorne, Fuller, Alcott, and Thoreau in mid-19th century Concord, Massachusetts.

So what should I do? Well, here is a solution: I will instead follow the advice Dorothy received about where she should begin her journey along the yellow-brick road in The Wizard of Oz: begin, of course, at the beginning. 

So, I'm returning to the beginning -- Emerson's New England antecedents -- with the book featured below. I have a feeling that I'm going to be on the yellow-brick road, with its potholes and detours, for quite a while before meeting up again with Emerson et al


  1. If it makes you feel any better, even those of us with brains of cheddar can go from topic to topic, chasing multiple rabbits and getting nowhere. Just call it a "a night on Wikipedia"!

  2. I think that's one of the most interesting things about reading, Tim. Everything leads the reader to something else. And I certainly think history is a good place to start.

  3. my dad was a physicist and i grew up with the idea that one started at the beginning and proceeded serially until the end: in education, jobs, friends, socialization, science, astronomy, and whatever else one did... it took me many years to understand that nobody knows everything, even if they just stick to one subject... the positive side being that, if that's so, then a person might as well study the things that are immediately interesting and not worry about the things that aren't... after doing this a while, i came to see that even with this nonorganized way of study, relationships between disparate subjects began to appear, leading to different and tantalizing pov's that never would have happened otherwise...
    so... whatever you read, it will highlight what you have read in illuminating ways... (the Mudpuddle theory of everything, chapter six... hahaha)

    1. darn... after that i realized that Margot said the same thing a lot more succinctly; i should have looked before i lept...

    2. Mudpuddle, my path has so many potholes and detours because of my impulses and my Swiss cheese mind. Thank you the chapter six excerpt.

  4. It seems to me that Perry Miller gives a cogent account of the Puritans in The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century. For your purposes, two or three chapters might suffice.

    I guess I could say that the book I am reading now is a third-degree reference--mentioned in a book that was mentioned in another book--though I've had it on my shelves for thirty-five years and more without tackling it. This sort of thing happens.

    1. George, thanks for reminding me about Miller.

  5. I also tend to go down roads, yellow and otherwise in literature and history. No mater what one reads, there are always connections to something else.

    I also want to read and learn more about the Puritans. I recently finished a reread of the Scarlett Letter and thus, I seem to be on the same road as you.