Thursday, January 22, 2009

the independence of solitude: on emerson's "self reliance"

as you may well know,
i find great comfort in reading.

it is no small thing that the pieces of literature that fall into my willing hands always seem to be serendipitously orchestrated to echo and forte in my mind about the ideas already ruminating inside.

today has been very existentially frustrating; i continue to butt my naive head against the societal wall of wealth and financial security and despite rigorous planning today, tomorrow i will fall into weakness and at the end of the year, there will never be enough. there is never enough. before i start the humble realization that i must redefine 'enough,' i chose instead today to beat myself up for poor planning and the Indian food i bought when we should have eaten at home.

and then the car dies so i cannot get to the grocery store and run my errands. this tiny addition to my physical limitations sent me into a sadness...a familiar, pitying sadness.

but what if it's not pity?
what if something is really seriously wrong with our society to value such things i cannot seem to grasp? (in the words of Alice in Revolutionary Road, "Who made these rules, anyway?!")
or is the something seriously wrong found in my subconscious adherence to such values without taking into account the individuality of my own life.

But then I started my prep work for a tutoring session tomorrow. The reading sent me into the Transcendentalist Americans, and the first two readings I get through make my heart quicken with new hope in the old understanding that we must not succumb to anything in life other than that which is our OWN.

Emerson: Self-Reliance

"It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinions; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude."

I see these words through blurs and blinks of resonation and my hungry soul continues its feast:

"The objection to conforming to usages that have become dead to you is that it scatters your force. It looses your time and blurs the impression of your character. If you maintain a dead church, vote with a great party either for the government or against it...under all these screens I have difficulty to detect the precise man you are: of course, so much force is withdrawn from your proper life. But do your work, and I shall know you. Do you our work, and you shall reinforce yourself."

We cannot be known, fully known to ourselves or others when we hide in society and consistency.

I have many fears. Up on the top ten of those are that I am afraid of being misunderstood. Second to that is the fear of contradicting myself.

And yet again, Emerson breaks through my sadness with words I am relieved to know what other humans ancient have known.

"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 today in hard words and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you say today. Ah, so you shall be misunderstood...Is it so bad then to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood..."

All of the thoughts burning upon my keyboard via my fingers reminds me simply that I have great comfort in Emerson, in Transcendental thought, in study, in self-reliance, in divinity, and in hope.

Today, in this chilly living room listening to Frederic Chopin, hope means:
  • I can be satisfied with a life where I never own a house or have a child - if that is my destiny.
  • I can survive in a less financially predictable or even stable situation if the trade off is a life work of my personal passions.
  • Anything can change.
  • My meaning is not derived from my financial acumen.
  • I make mistakes. I recover.forces of enchantment: from couragemylove
    i have long since attached myself to this photo. i need to buy it.


Ah friends, I am in an internal frenzy. I return to my stacks of Emerson & Thoreau, but must have you know that I forgot the cardinal maxim of writing...to which I admonish all. When I cannot write, I haven't really read.

When I read,
I can, nay- MUST, write.

"Let us affront and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and squalid contentment of the times,"
mme. bookling.

2 comments:

catholicbeer said...

A tragedy that I didn't read this last night... I know you in your writing... not tat I misunderstood what you were saying, but that you write so full of meaning and emotive flourish. The words written here were published only last night but they seem thousands of years old.. like they were carved into stone by a lost civilization and haphazardly revealed only now by centuries of erosion. I realize that in a way I must release you into your natural soil; leaves and pages that you must fill with your roots. Dig deep my stony ancient... you will out last this age.

Iscah Mara said...

perhaps it is the unfettered spirit of the immanent weekend, but i am weeping at this post.

that picture! it is the image of my longing and my greatest fear. i need a voyage, the simple desperation of a woman determined to face the vast ocean equipped only with that which is truly worthy:

boots - fierce strength
dress - unabashed romance
suitcase - well, mine would house with Keats, Moore, Marquez, Ricoeur, perfume, a knife, a letter from my love, and a flask of bourbon.

come for me ocean, i am atreyu.

and you, my changeling, better to move with passion and be seen a fool than to retreat with apathy and not be seen at all. this is not a prescription, but rather what i have learned from you.