by Robert Wilkinson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was one of the most amazing beings to grace 19th century America, and as I mentioned in this article on communing with the source of Divine inspiration, "he... gave young America intellectual and philosophical credibility and direction." His wisdom is profound, practical, and still very relevant in our irrational world. Today we explore some things he said about "Self-Reliance."
One interesting quote of Emerson's is often attributed to Einstein, showing that the father of quantum physics was also a fan of the Sage of Concord. From Emerson,
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds... With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said today.
Here are a few more pithy and deep insights from this remarkable man.
There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better or worse as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.(All quotes from The Sage From Concord by Quest Books.)
We pass for what we are. Character teaches above our wills. Men imagine they communicate their virtue or vice only by overt actions, and do not see that virtue or vice emits a breath every morning
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.
Prayer that craves a particular commodity, anything less than all good, is vicious... As soon as a man is at one with God, he will not beg. He will then see prayer in all action.
Discontent is the want of self-reliance; it is infirmity of will. Regret calamities if you can thereby help the sufferer; if not, attend your own work and already the evil begins to be repaired.
Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession.
Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.