Emerson the Righter


No, that’s not a typo.  I just finished a book by Bob Richardson called First We Read, Then

First We Read, Then We Write: Emerson on the Creative Process, by Robert D. Richardson

We Write: Emerson on the Creative Process, which among other things talks about his (Emerson’s) love of the language of the street–not the highblown language of the academy or the cliches of the church, but the way people actually talk to each other.  I’ve written about this before with reference to Socrates/Plato, and the language of the Agora vs. the language of Acropolis, and it’s interesting that Emerson chooses the same approach.  To speak in your own voice, not the inherited structure of someone else’s.  It might get you tenure, it might get you a church, but you’ll always be mouthing someone else’s truth, not your own.

But more to the point, I think Emerson knew himself to be more than a writer; he was a “righter.”  He knew the truth about Man’s position on earth: that he was a fragment of the One, and had the ability to realize his own Divinity.  This is the ultimate fact which we so quickly reach on this, as on every topic, the resolution of all into the ever-blessed ONE. Self-existence is the attribute of the Supreme Cause, and it constitutes the measure of good by the degree in which it enters into all lower forms. (Self-Reliance)

But he looked around and saw the suffering of people who had forgotten this fact, and were even then caught up in the play of the “lower forms.”  His real mission was to right these wrongs–to remind people of their true nature and the love and bliss that flowed naturally from it.  To protest the forced removal of the Cherokee Nation, the unforgivable institution of slavery, the subjugation of women.  I believe it was this vision of all people as aspects of the One that gave his writing such power, that makes him still today one of the most quoted American authors.  So let us take him to heart:

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. Not possibly will the soul all rich, all eloquent, with thousand-cloven tongue, deign to repeat itself; but if you can hear what these patriarchs say, surely you can reply to them in the same pitch of voice; for the ear and the tongue are two organs of one nature. Abide in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey thy heart, and thou shalt reproduce the Foreworld again.

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