Ne te quaesiveris extra

You gotta love Ralph Waldo Emerson. Not the man, and not all of his writings… but some of them that is. I always loved parts of Self-Reliance. I say parts… as I’ve simply never been able to stand reading the entire essay from beginning to end in a single sitting. Why you ask? Writing style maybe… who knows… but parts of it I truly love. And I feel like quoting them…. for no apparent reason whatsoever. Maybe I’m just nostalgic for some 1980’s Reebok commercials.

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius.

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, for 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.

Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; 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.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. 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 to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to 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.

One Comment

Clark Hewitt 2009-09-27 Reply

I’m a little rusty on Emerson. I have visited the little shack on Waldon Pond, though. A little to Ted Kazinski for my.

ne te quaesiveris extra is the heraldic chevron on our (old as hell) family coats. As a child, I learned it meant, “Don’t think outside yourself.” I was ten. My Great Uncle Forrest explained that listening to the noise of the world – which he claims has limited value(s) – and just makes it nearly impossible to be decerning and discriminate between the questions of value and usefulness. His example, over some brioche, was that money has no value, only usefulness. It does not increase the chance of a right (most useful) decision to think beyond what your know to be true. After that, I had a million questions, but he was asleep.

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