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Emerson on Self-Reliance
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  1. A Call for Genuineness
  2. Truthfulness
  3. Intuition, Intelligence and Reveries
  4. Real Virtue
  5. Self-Trust
  6. Travelling Far
  7. Great Men
  8. The Arts
  9. Other Observations
  10. Enslaving Conformity
  11. Society and Property
  12. Misunderstanding and Contradiction

From Emerson's "Self-Reliance"

"Self-Reliance" is an 1841 essay written by the American transcendentalist philosopher and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82). "Be true to yourself and where it takes you" lies beneath many of his passages. A motto like this has many aspects. A note of warning: You need to be protected enough to make it as well. Resources count too. The complete essay: [The essay "Self-Reliance"]

Worth Noting

Ralph Waldo Emerson studied
"A true man is the centre of things". - With Emerson
Below are stacked phrases with many direct quotations from Emerson's essay Self-Reliance.

Abbreviated Emerson statements are marked [With Emerson]. The ideas they contain may be found in a wider scenario in Emerson phrase(s) they are related to. Modified statements are marked [Mod Emerson]. Abd humourously shortened Emerson statements are marked by [Hum Emerson].

Where two or more statements are adjoined or "glued together" by us, it is shown by an em dash ( – ) between them. Also, a star (*) after a statement shows the statement has no particular or significant origin in Emerson thought, as far as we are aware of.

If you would like to see the sentences that Emerson wrote and their contexts in paragraphs and developing lines of thought, The whole essay is here: [LINK].

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A Call for Genuineness

LoYour genuine actions can turn out to be harmonious as they serve your self-keeping

The soul always hears an admonition in original and not conventional verses. [With Emerson]

Imitation is suicide. [Emerson]

Your genuine action will explain your other genuine actions. [With Emerson]

The soul becomes. [Emerson]

Of one will, the actions may be harmonious, however unlike they seem. [Mod Emerson]

These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they exist with God today. [With Emerson] ◊

Let a man know his worth, and keep things under his feet. [With Emerson]

I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. [Emerson]

LoTrust your heart and do right to yourself

I suppose no man can violate his nature – Trust yourself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. [Emerson] ◊

Do right now. [Emerson]

LoTo believe your private heart in solitude is great

The essence of genius, of virtue, and of life we call Spontaneity. [With Emerson]

I will not hide my tastes or aversions. [Emerson]

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is also genius. [Mod Emerson]

When a mind is simple, and receives a divine wisdom, old things pass away. [Mod Emerson]

The voices which we hear in solitude grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. [Emerson]

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. [With Emerson] MM 

Gist

In Sum
  1. Your genuine actions can turn out to be harmonious as they serve your self-keeping.
  2. Trust your heart and do right to yourself.
  3. To believe your private heart in solitude is great.
In nuce Genuine actions result from trusting and believing what is heart-felt and from deep inside.

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Truthfulness

LoA true man goes on to live truly and centre deeply

Wwe follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last. [Emerson]

A true man is the centre of things. [With Emerson]

If we live truly, we shall see truly. [Emerson] ◊

All persons have their moments of reason, when they look out into the region of absolute truth; then will they justify me. [Emerson]

LoHandsome truths are to be preferred

Truth is handsomer than the affectation of love. [Emerson]

We come to them who weep foolishly instead of imparting to them truth and health in rough electric shocks, putting them once more in communication with their own reason. [With Emerson]

LoLive in truth and measure your work - monitoring yourself is an aspect of that

I know that for myself it makes no difference whether I do or forbear those actions which are reckoned excellent. [Emerson]

To live in truth. Does this sound harsh today? [With Emerson]

A true man measures all events. [With Emerson]

Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself. [Emerson]

The soul raised over passion notes the self-existence of Truth and Right [With Emerson] MM  

Gist

In Sum
  1. A true man goes on to live truly and centre deeply.
  2. Handsome truths are to be preferred.
  3. Live in truth and measure your work - monitoring yourself is an aspect of it.
In nuce A true man shows handsome truths to his ability and lives truth too.

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Intuition, Intelligence and Reveries

LoIntuitive findings result from attuning to Being inside yourself

The idlest reverie, the faintest native emotion, command native respect. [Mod Emerson]

Your isolation must be spiritual, that is, elevation. [With Emerson]

Intuition is the fountain of action and of thought – We denote primary wisdom as Intuition, whilst all later teachings are tuitions. [With Emerson]

Adhere to the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view - of a beholding and jubilant Being – Thus let sound simplicity judge [Mod Emerson] ◊

There is somewhat low even in hope, as compared to attuning to the brilliant here-and-now. [Cf. Emerson]

LoStun and astonish by talk if needs be. There are other non-crooked ways too

Why do we prate of Self-Reliance? To talk of reliance is a poor external way of speaking. [With Emerson]

Let us stun and astonish by a simple declaration of the divine fact. [With Emerson] ◊

LoIn intuition you sense "I am" and live too

We lie in the lap of immense intelligence. [Emerson]

Man postpones or does not live in the present, heedless of the riches that surround him. [With Emerson]

In intuition all things find their common origin. [With Emerson]

When you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way. [Emerson]

Live with nature in the present, even above time. This should be plain enough. [With Emerson] MM 

Gist

In Sum
  1. Intuitive findings result from attuning to Being inside yourself.
  2. Stun and astonish by talk if needs be. There are other and better ways too.
  3. In intuition you sense "I am" and live too.
In nuce Intuitive findings astonish others who have enough intuitive brightness to perceive astonishing things.

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Real Virtue

LoConsider whether your dog begs from you in very smooth and smart ways or adds something of value to you; the former is very common nowadays

Let us wake Thor and Woden [Odin], courage and constancy, in our breasts. This is to be done in our smooth times by speaking the truth. [With Emerson]

Nature suffers nothing to remain in her kingdoms which cannot help itself. [Emerson]

Live ever in a new day. [Emerson]

Consider whether your relations, cat, and dog can upbraid you. [With Emerson] ◊

Man's genius is not admonished to stay at home, to put itself in communication with the internal ocean, but it goes abroad to beg a cup of water of the urns of other men. [With Emerson]

LoThe Supreme Existence is filling all animals too, not only human beings

Self-Existence is the attribute of the Supreme Being. [Cf. Emerson]

LoThis is an ultimate "law" too: Learn to check things carefully as soon as you are up to it

Virtue is Height. This is the ultimate fact – So let us always sit. [Emerson]

The populace think that your rejection of popular standards is a rejection of all standard. But the law of consciousness abides. [With Emerson]

Check any lying affection. [Mod Emerson] MM 

Gist

In Sum
  1. Consider whether your dog begs or gets from you in very smooth and smart ways or adds something of value to you; the former is very common nowadays.
  2. The Supreme Existence is filling all animals -
  3. Check things carefully.
In nuce Consider that the common fare may contain fooling or depraving agents: "The dog gives and the dog takes away"; is there balance in it? Is is a win-win fare for all concerned? Have you found your stimulating match, even mentally? The one to spend time with, instead of cultivating yourself or some art? Let us hope the best but not omit to check things carefully, to our ability.

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Self-Trust

LoThe self-helper can be a veritable, masked genius

As soon as the man is at one with God, he will not beg – In proportion to the depth of the thought and with the exercise of self-trust, new powers will appear. [Mod Emerson]

For the self-helping man some doors are flung wide. Our love goes out to him and embraces him, because he did not need it. [Mod Emerson] ◊

If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened, and in complaining the rest of his life. [With Emerson]

LoDo not demand trust of a superior, and hardly your wife either

He who does not postpone his life may get a hundred chances. [With Emerson] ◊

It demands something godlike to cast off the common motives of humanity and trust oneself for a taskmaster. [With Emerson]

LoWho always falls - we should revere the strength involved in that feat too

Good men must detach themselves. [Mod Emerson]

A sturdy lad from New Hampshire who always falls on his feet like a cat, is worth a hundred of city dolls. He lives already. [Hum Emerson]

The moment a man acts from himself, we should thank and revere him. [With Emerson] 

Gist

In Sum
  1. The self-helper can be a veritable, masked genius.
  2. Do not demand trust of a superior, and hardly from your wife either.
  3. Who always falls - we could revere the strength involved in that feat too . . .
In nuce The self-helper demands no wife out of elephant strength.

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Travelling Far

LoVain travelling does not carry us full well

He who travels to be amused, or to get somewhat which he does not carry, travels away from himself. Vain travelling is a fool's paradise. [Mod Emerson] ◊

LoTravelling holds its fascination still

It is for want of self-culture that the superstition of Travelling, whose idols are Italy, England, Egypt, retains its fascination for all educated Americans. [Emerson]

The soul is no traveller; the wise man stays at home. [Emerson] ◊

When his necessities, his duties, on any occasion call the wise man from his house, or into foreign lands, he is at home still. [With Emerson]

LoFinding some intellectual giant is testing and trying to folks

I have no churlish objection to the circumnavigation of the globe for the purposes of art, of study, and benevolence, so that the man is first domesticated, or does not go abroad with the hope of finding somewhat greater than he knows. [Emerson]

My giant goes with me wherever I go. [Emerson]

The rage of travelling is a symptom of a deeper unsoundness affecting the whole intellectual action. [Emerson] 

Gist

In Sum
  1. Vain travelling does not carry us full well.
  2. Travelling holds its fascination still.
  3. Finding some intellectual giant is testing and trying to folks.
In nuce Vain or superficial travelling holds its fascination until the destinations are levelled out by the common, often shallow tourism with its housings and scheduled spectacles and events with persons steered like flocks of so many paying cattle - but such entertainments are much better than TV shows. Moreover, showing off for tourist money is hardly organic or rooted enough in the local community, which can be seen later, and may slowly degenerate manners. - The thoughts of the intellectual folks are not welcome if they are not received with thanks.

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Great Men

LoGreat geniuses can be really pleasant to be with

Use all that is called Fortune. Most men gamble with her. [Emerson]

The great genius returns to essential man. [Emerson]

He who is really of the class of Socrates and Diogenes, will be his own man – A great man is coming to eat at my house. I do not wish to please him; I wish that he should wish to please me. [Emerson] ◊

LoNo book-knowledge is a merit to some, and most often it is otherwise

Some of the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is, that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men but what they thought. [Mod Emerson] ◊

LoCertain, often physical forms of being "great" appeal to the young. These things change with age and maturity

Really great men leave no class. [Mod Emerson]

Greatness appeals to the future. [Emerson]

Tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time. [Emerson]

Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of sound principles. [Mod Emerson] MM

Honour is always ancient virtue it is not a trap but is self-dependent, self-derived even if shown in a young person. [With Emerson] 

Gist

In Sum
  1. Great geniuses can be really pleasant to be with.
  2. No book-knowledge is a merit to some, and most often it is otherwise.
  3. Certain, often physical forms of being "great" appeal to the young. These things change with age and maturity.
In nuce Meritorious, benevolent geniuses and things may change in time.

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The Arts

LoYour own gift should be cultivated to get neat too - or dangers may arise in the way

The soul created the arts wherever they have flourished. [Emerson]

Every great man is a unique. [Emerson]

Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation – Abide in the simple and noble regions of your life, obey thy heart, and you shall reproduce the Foreworld again. [Emerson] ◊

LoArtful expressions may ignore grammar and much else

Insist on yourself; never imitate – That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. [Emerson]

Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much. [Emerson] ◊

Artful expression is an application of one's own thought – Of the talent adopted from another, you have only half possession. [Mod Emerson]

The arts and inventions of each period are only its costume [Emerson]

There is at this moment for you an utterance brave and grand as that of the colossal chisel of Phidias, or trowel of the Egyptians, or the pen of Moses, or Dante, but different from all these. [Emerson]

Why need we copy the Doric or the Gothic model? Beauty, convenience, grandeur of thought, and quaint expression are as near to us as to any, and if the American artist will study with hope and love the precise thing to be done by him, considering the climate, the soil, the length of the day, the wants of the people, the habit and form of the government, he will create a house in which all these will find themselves fitted, and taste and sentiment will be satisfied also. [Emerson] 

LoThe fit and self-serving thoughts come from inside yourself

Self-serving art is not to be overlooked. There is the art of living, which contains other art forms. *

Gist

In Sum
  1. Your own gift should be cultivated to get neat too - or dangers may arise in the way.
  2. Artful expressions may ignore grammar and much else.
  3. The fit and self-serving thoughts come from inside yourself.
In nuce If your own gift is one of expressions, best thought serves both yourself and some other(s).

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Other Observations

Lo

Invalids and the insane pay a high board. [Emerson] ◊

LoTo make no references is simple, and may do in a flower-bed. At school it may be different

These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they exist with God today. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. [Emerson]

I suppose no man can violate his nature. [Emerson] ◊

Envy is a form of ignorance. [With Emerson]

The swallow over my window should interweave that thread or straw he carries in his bill into my web also – Do I not know beforehand? [Emerson]

LoMan is "good and bad" according to some ideas too

I have difficulty to detect the precise man you are so much force is withdrawn from your proper life. [With Emerson]

Man is, as it were, clapped into jail by his consciousness. [Emerson]

Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this. [Emerson]

Do not tell me of my obligation to put all poor men in good situations. Are they my poor? [With Emerson] MM 

Gist

In Sum
  1. Invalids pay too, but what can be more obscure.
  2. To make no references is simple, but at school it may be different.
  3. Man is "good and bad" according to some ideas too.
In nuce Invalids often have to pay to get life simple and convenient - To make no references to invalids is good or bad according to circumstances, customs, or tastes. After all, other references we make are often heavily sanctioned too.

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Enslaving Conformity (There is Good Conformity Also)

LoIs our reading really helping us to cleave to very fit and able company? That's a hard question

If a man claims to know and speak of God, and carries you backward to the phraseology of some old mouldered nation in another country, in another world, believe him not. [With Emerson]

Our reading is mendicant and sycophantic. [Emerson]

Beware of feminine rage. [Mod Emerson]

Every new mind is a new classification. [Emerson] ◊

Cleave to your true companions; I will seek my own, humbly and truly. [With Emerson]

LoMuch influence of other minds is to be reckoned with thoughout a life

When the ignorant and the poor are aroused, when the unintelligent brute force that lies at the bottom of society is made to growl and mow, I am hindered of meeting God because he has shut his own temple doors. [Mod Emerson]

There is a mortifying experience in particular, that is "the foolish face of praise," the forced smile which we put on in company where we do not feel at ease in answer to conversation which does not interest us. [Emerson]

Many ignorant and brute men above us scare us from self-trust. [Mod Emerson]

In many unbalanced minds, the reckoning has suffered damage. [Cf. Emerson] ◊

Unsound classifications of powerful minds are to be reckoned with. [Mod Emerson]

For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure. [Emerson]

Consider what a blindman's-buff is the unsound game of conformity. [With Emerson]

Utter conformity makes false; why should you keep your head over your shoulder? [Mod Emerson]

That popular fable of the sot who was picked up dead drunk in the street, carried to the duke's house, washed and dressed and laid in the duke's bed, and, on his waking, treated with all obsequious ceremony like the duke, and assured that he had been insane, owes its popularity to the fact, that it symbolizes so well the state of man, who is in the world a sort of sot, but now and then wakes up, exercises his reason, and finds himself a true prince. [Emerson]

LoA man must know how to affront and reprimand coldhearted ones betimes

At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. [Emerson]

Most men have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief. [Emerson]

A man must know how to estimate a sour face. [Emerson]

The power men possess to annoy me, I give them by a weak curiosity. [Emerson]

Let us affront and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and squalid contentment of the times. [Emerson] MM

Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright but quotes some saint or sage. [With Emerson] 

Gist

In Sum
  1. Is our reading really helping us to cleave to very fit and able company? That's a hard question.
  2. Much influence of other minds is to be reckoned with thoughout a life.
  3. A man must know how to affront and reprimand coldhearted ones betimes.
In nuce If reading takes us into better company, welcome it. And then affront cold-hearted ones, only when you can afford that cost.

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Society and Property

LoThe civilized man depends on machinery as a plantation owner depended on slavery in his day

You shall see that the white man has lost his aboriginal strength. [Emerson]

The civilized man has a fine Geneva watch, but he fails of the skill to tell the hour by the sun – His note-books impair his memory; his libraries overload his wit; the insurance-office increases the number of accidents; and it may be a question whether machinery does not encumber; whether we have not lost by refinement some energy, some vigour of wild virtue. [Emerson] ◊

LoA mere so-called improvement of society needs to be scrutinised in time to ward off danger

All men plume themselves on the improvement of society, and no man improves. [Emerson] ◊

LoTo gain reliance from fine property helps too. Don't ignore it

The civilized man has built a coach, but has perhaps lost the use of his feet. He is supported on crutches – An imitative society never solidly advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other. It undergoes continual changes; it is barbarous, it is civilized For every thing that is given, something is taken. [Mod Emerson]

The man in the street does not know a star in the sky. [Emerson]

The harm of the improved machinery may compensate its good. [Emerson]

Reliance on property, including the reliance on governments which protect it, is the want of Self-Reliance. [Emerson] MM

Men have looked away from themselves and at things so long, that they measure their esteem of each other by what each has, and not by what each is. [With Emerson] 

Gist

In Sum
  1. The civilized man depends on machinery as a plantation owner depended on slavery in his day.
  2. A mere so-called improvement of society needs to be scrutinised in time to ward off danger.
  3. To gain reliance from fine property helps too. Don't ignore it.
In nuce The civilized man and woman should improve themselves and their lots through scrutinizing their conditions and machines, or "trans-slaves", of today, for the sake of having fine, tenable property, and don't rely on producers only.

When in Rome, do some of the things the Romans do, but think things over first

Anecdote During (John) Calvin Coolidge's (1872-1933) presidency (1923-29), an overnight guest at the White House was seated at the President's right hand at the family breakfast table. He noted that Coolidge took his coffee cup, poured the greater part of its contents into the deep saucer, and leisurely added a little bit of cream and a little sugar. The guest now lost his head. With a panicky feeling that at the White House he was to do as the President did, he hastily decanted his own coffee into the saucer and followed suit. When he had done this, he saw Coolidge took his own saucer and placed it on the floor for the cat.

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Misunderstanding and Contradiction

LoSome sulks that try to misunderstand you, may go on to injure you wilfully as well. Beware of that

It may not be so very bad if sulks misunderstand you. * A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. [Emerson]

Suppose you should contradict yourself; what then? [Emerson]

With bad consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do [Mod Emerson] ◊

LoPythagoras was misunderstood - but did it add to his esteem? That should be estimated too

Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and many other pure and wise spirits that ever took flesh. [Mod Emerson]

To be great is to be misunderstood, but by whom? [Mod Emerson] 

LoTo be great is to deviate from average persons, and there are probably opportunities and dangers of that again

To be great is to be understood and appreciated by other great ones that resonate in harmony with you.

To be great is to deviate considerably. *

Gist

In Sum
  1. Some sulks that try to misunderstand you, may go on to injure you wilfully as well. One should beware of that.
  2. Pythagoras was misunderstood - but did it add to his esteem? That should be estimated too.
  3. To be great is to deviate from something called average, and there are probably opportunities and dangers of that again.
In nuce Is it too bad, then, to be understood by all?

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