Ralph Waldo Emerson is visiting with me this morning. I wonder how many people have read his words, his diaries, his essays and his poetry? It is true that he lived many years ago (1803 to1882) but his insight into his own time helps me deal with our present time.
“When I find in people narrow religion,” he wrote, “I find narrow reading.” Nothing has changed since Emerson wrote these words. Narrow religion still equals narrow reading. Narrow politics also equals narrow reading. “When I see changed men, I shall look for a changed world,” he wrote. Surely we need people today willing to change with a changing world—and this world can become a wonderful place if we ourselves can change and thus change it.
In his Journal, Emerson wrote, “All the thoughts of a turtle are turtle.” Think about that! In another journal entry, he writes, “Because our education is defective, because we are superficial and ill-read, we are forced to make the most of that position, of ignorance. Hence America is a vast know-nothing party, and we disparage books, and cry up intuition. With a few clever men we have made a reputable thing of that,…we have even come so far as to deceive everybody, except ourselves, into an admiration of un-learning and inspiration, forsooth.” Now, I know this writing is of another age, using words we seldom use anymore, but doesn’t it speak to our time? Read it through three or four times. Then look at our current situation as we face a presidential election. Notice how superficial and ill-read we are, and what a “vast know-nothing party” we are!
In yet another entry, Emerson tells of a man who said, “Slavery is a divine institution” in a public speech. An old man in the crowd exclaimed, “So is hell.”
Thank you, Waldo, for sharing some time with me this morning. Your words speak still, but only to those who will read them, ponder them, and apply them.
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