Dec 17, 2006

Emerson everywhere

In his original "read a book of the Bible for twenty days" challenge, Joe Carter quotes James M. Gray, who writes,
The first practical help I ever received in the mastery of the English Bible was from a layman.... He had gone into the country to spend the Sabbath with his family on one occasion, taking with him a pocket copy of Ephesians, and in the afternoon, going out into the woods and lying down under a tree, he began to read it; he read it through at a single reading, and finding his interest aroused, read it through again in the same way, and, his interest increasing, again and again. I think he added that he read it some twelve or fifteen times, “and when I arose to go into the house,” said he, “I was in possession of Ephesians, or better yet, it was in possession of me, and I had been ‘lifted up to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus’ in an experimental sense in which that had not been true in me before, and will never cease to be true in me again.”
"It was in possession of me," says Gray's friend, and it's a fitting way to describe what happens when you read a text--any meaningful text--for twenty days straight.

Consider how "Self-Reliance" currently dominates my thinking. I watch a Sopranos episode where Carmela visits Paris, all the while remembering Emerson's observation, "Traveling is a fool's paradise... [the tourist] carries ruins to ruins."

I read Pseudo-Polymath on the lack of modern wisdom, all the while thinking, "Society never advances." After all,
The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet. He is supported on crutches, but lacks so much support of muscle. He has got a fine Geneva watch, but he has lost the skill to tell the hour by the sun. A Greenwich nautical almanac he has, and so being sure of the information when he wants it, the man in the street does not know a star in the sky. The solstice he does not observe; the equinox he knows as little; and the whole bright calendar of the year is without a dial in his mind.
I pass the panhandler in the Santa hat, and wonder if he is my poor. I doubt that I can absolve me to myself. I worry that my goodness has no edge to it, and that I am false in all particulars. (I have not yet dreamed of Emerson, or in Emersonian, but I imagine such dreams are not far off.)

In short, I have become "like children who repeat by rote the sentences of grandames and tutors," and my tutor is Emerson.


Mark said...

For counterpoint? Dependent Rational Animals by MacIntyre?

Jim Anderson said...

Looks interesting. Haven't read it. Checking library website now.