Exciting Curiosity

Robert D. Richardson Jr., Emerson: The Mind on Fire
University of California Peress, 1995

In the summer of 2017 I had the immense pleasure of reading Richardson’s stunning biography of the U.S. sage, and noted the following passages with gratitude…

“A man is made great by concentration of motive.” 54

“The present moment is in your power but the past in inalterable, the future is inscrutable.” 58

“…all that can be done for you is nothing to what you can do for yourself.” 69

“Every moment makes me a more powerful being.” 77

“… but our virtue is in all cases determined by ourselves…. Let anyone try to spend one hour a day without spot or blemish.” 80

“A portion of the truth, bright and sublime, lives in every moment in every mind.” 82

“We may read history but this [ourselves] is what we learn there or we learn nothing.” 87

[To the question “What is God?” he now replies] “the most elevated conception of character that can be formed in the mind. It is the individual’s own soul carried out to perfection.” 97

“There is in every human mind a power greater than that mind.” 99

“For only that book can we read which relates to me something that is already in my mind.” 99

“When the mind is braced by labor and invention, the page of whatever book we read becomes luminous with manifold allusion.” 100

[Emerson held on to his own granite conviction, his foundational insight that] … “my own mind is the direct revelation I have from God.” 117

“Religion … is a new life of those faculties you have.” 126

“To an instructed eye the universe is transparent.” 155

“It is a great happiness when two good minds meet, both cultivated, and with such difference of learning as to excite each other’s curiosity, and such similarity as to understand each other’s allusions in the touch-and-go of conversation.” 191

“The hero is a mind of such balance that no disturbance can shake his will, but pleasantly, and, as it were, merrily, he advances to his own music.” 273

“What is man but a congress of nations.” 333

“To find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.” 374

“… honor every truth by use.” 417

“A man must do the work with that faculty he has now. But that faculty is the accumulation of past days. No rival can rival backwards. What you have learned and done is safe and fruitful. Work and learn in evil days, in insulted days, in days of debt and depression and calamity. Fight best in the shade of the cloud of arrows.” 390

“The one good in life is concentration; the one evil is dissipation.” 430


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