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From ‘Self-Reliance’

This next excerpt is from one of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s most famous essays. Eloquently put, with such imaginative and broad diction, by far one of my favorite authors. I could read and reread his essays throughout my life and still find conceptual insights to dwell into like a warm blanket in the winter. The essay also delves into conformity and the need for individuality.

“The objection to conforming to usages that have Ralph_Waldo_Emerson_cph.3b20760become dead to you is, that it scatters your force. It loses your time and blurs the impression of your character. If you maintain a dead church, contribute to a dead Bible-society, vote with a great party either for the government or against it, spread your table like base housekeepers,-under all these screens I have difficulty to detect the precise man you are. And, of course, so much force is withdrawn from your proper life. But do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself. A man must consider what a blindman’s-bluff is this game of conformity. If I know your sect, I anticipate your argument.

There is ample conformity occurring this day day of age. The America’s are rampant with political divisions, racial divides, gender warfare, cultural genocide, class factionalism-not even the state’s nor the federal government properly working in unison. It is up to us citizens to become individual, to criticize your party for not adhering to your wishes; be no party but of yourself and your individual wishes and needs. We are scattered as individuals, adhering to the broadest statements of all sorts of generalities. We possess the most advanced technology in our hands, on our desks; yet we are fickle to our mobile applications, gaining nothing but a new high score, learning nothing but of gossip and media.

I hear a preacher announce for his text and topic the expediency of one of the institutions of his church. Do I know beforehand that not possibly can he say a new and spontaneous word? Do I not know that, with all this ostentation of examining the grounds of the institution, he will do no such thing? Do I not know that he is pledged to himself not to look but at one side,-the permitted side, not as a man, but as a parish minister? He is a retained attorney, and these airs of the bench are the emptiest affection. Well, most men have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief, and attached themselves to some one of these communities of opinion.

When man is placed to service under an institution, he does not draw from the self or the individual, but rather the institution itself. They behave based upon protocol, therefore they are in fact not themselves at all, but cloned creatures of the entity they serve. Priests and ministers are held to one book, one ideology, they cannot say or do anything that is new or has not been heard of.

This conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all particulars. Their every truth is not quite true. Their two is not the real two, their four not the real four; so that every word they say chagrins us, and we know not where to begin to set them right. Meantime nature is not slow to equip us in the prison-uniform of the party to which we adhere. We come to wear one cut of face and figure, and acquire by degrees the gentlest asinine expression. There is a mortifying experience in particular, which does not fail to wreak itself also in the general history; I mean “the foolish face of praise,” the forces smile which we put on in company where we do not feel at ease in answer to conversation which does not interest us. The muscles, not spontaneously moved, but moved by a low usurping willfulness, grow tight about the outline of the face with the most disagreeable sensation.”

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On Love

What is Love? Ask him who lives, what is life; ask him who adores, what is God?

Percy_Bysshe_Shelley_by_Alfred_Clint_crop.jpg

I know not the internal constitution of other men, nor even thine, whom I now address. I see that in some external attributes they resemble me, but when, misled by that appearance, I have thought to appeal to something in common, and unburthen my inmost soul to them, I have found my language misunderstood, like one in a distant and savage land. The more opportunities they have afforded me for experience, the wider has appeared the interval between us, and to a greater distance have the points of sympathy been withdrawn. With a spirit ill fitted to sustain such proof, trembling and feeble through its tenderness,

I have everywhere sought sympathy, and have found only repulse and disappointment.

 

Thou demandest what is Love. It is that powerful attraction towards all we conceive, or fear, or hope beyond ourselves, when we find within our own thoughts the chasm of an insufficient void, and seek to awaken in all things that are, a community with what we experience within ourselves. If we reason, we would be understood; if we imagine, we would that the airy children of our brain were born anew within another’s; if we feel, we would that another’s nerves should vibrate to our own, that the beams of their eyes should kindle at once and mix and melt into our own; that lips of motionless ice should not reply to lips quivering and burning with the heart’s best blood. This is Love. This is the bond and the sanction which connects not only man with man, but with every thing which exists. We are born into the world, and there is something within us which, from the instant that we live, more and more thirsts after its likeness. It is probably in correspondence with this law that the infant drains milk from the bosom of its mother; this propensity develops itself with the development of our nature. We dimly see within our intellectual nature a miniature as it were of our entire self, yet deprived of all that we condemn or despise, the ideal prototype of every thing excellent and lovely that we are capable of conceiving as belonging to the nature of man. Not only the portrait of our external being, but an assemblage of the minutest particles of which our nature is composed; a mirror whose surface reflects only the forms of purity and brightness; a soul within our own soul that describes a circle around its proper Paradise, which pain and sorrow and evil dare not overleap. To this we eagerly refer all sensations, thirsting that they should resemble or correspond with it. The discovery of its antitype; the meeting with an understanding capable of clearly estimating our own; an imagination which should enter into and seize upon the subtle and delicate peculiarities which we have delighted to cherish and unfold in secret; with a frame whose nerves, like the chords of two exquisite lyres, strung to the accompaniment of one delightful voice, vibrate with the vibrations of our own; and of a combination of all these in such proportion as the type within demands; this is the invisible and unattainable point to which Love tends; and to attain which, it urges forth the powers of man to arrest the faintest shadow of that, without the possession of which there is no rest nor respite to the heart over which it rules.

Hence in solitude, or in that deserted state when we are surrounded by human beings, and yet they sympathize not with us, we love the flowers, the grass, the waters, and the sky.

In the motion of the very leaves of spring, in the blue air, there is then found a secret correspondence with our heart. There is eloquence in the tongueless wind, and a melody in the flowing brooks and the rustling of the reeds beside them, which by their inconceivable relation to something within the soul, awaken the spirits to a dance of breathless rapture, and bring tears of mysterious tenderness to the eyes, like the enthusiasm of patriotic success, or the voice of one beloved singing to you alone. Sterne says that if he were in a desert he would love some cypress. So soon as this want or power is dead, man becomes the living sepulcher of himself, and what yet survives is the mere husk of what once he was.

-Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1818

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All Religions Are One

The Voice of one crying in the Wilderness

NPG 212; William Blake by Thomas Phillips
by Thomas Phillips, oil on canvas, 1807
The Argument. As the true method of knowledge is experiment the true faculty of knowing must be the faculty which experiences. This faculty I treat of.
PRINCIPLE 1ST.
That the Poetic Genius is the true Man, and that the body or outward form of Man is derived from the Poetic Genius. Likewise that the forms of all things are
derived from their Genius, which by the Ancients was call’d an Angel & Spirit & Demon.
PRINCIPLE 2ND.
As all men are alike in outward form, So (and with the same infinite variety) all are alike in the Poetic Genius.
PRINCIPLE 3RD.
No man can think write or speak from his heart, but he must intend truth. Thus all sects of Philosophy are from the Poetic Genius, adapted to the weaknesses of every individual.
PRINCIPLE4.
As none by travelling over known lands can find out the unknown, So from already acquired knowledge Man could not acquire more. Therefore an universal Poetic Genius exists.
PRINCIPLE 5.
The Religions of all Nations are derived from each Nation’s different reception of the Poetic Genius, which is every where call’d the Spirit of Prophecy.
PRINCIPLE 6.
The Jewish & Christian Testaments are An original derivation from the Poetic Genius. This is necessary from the confined nature of bodily sensation.
PRINCIPLE 7TH.
As all men are alike (tho’ infinitely various), So all Religions & as all similars have one source.

The true Man is the source, he being the Poetic Genius.

-William Blake, 1788

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Darkness

works_of_lord_byron_poetry_volume_4_frontispiece“I had a dream, which was not all a dream.

The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went- and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light:
And they did live by watchfires-—and the thrones,
The palaces of crowned kings—-the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum’d,
And men were gather’d round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other’s face;
Happy were those who dwelt within the eye
Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch:
A fearful hope was all the world contain’d;
Forests were set on fire—-but hour by hour
They fell and faded—-and the crackling trunks
Extinguish’d with a crash—-and all was black.
The brows of men by the despairing light
Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smil’d;
And others hurried to and fro, and fed
Their funeral piles with fuel, and look’d up
With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
The pall of a past world; and then again
With curses cast them down upon the dust,
And gnash’d their teeth and howl’d: the wild birds shriek’d
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl’d
And twin’d themselves among the multitude,
Hissing, but stingless—-they were slain for food.
And War, which for a moment was no more,
Did glut himself again: a meal was bought
With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left;
All earth was but one thought—-and that was death
Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
Of famine fed upon all entrails—men
Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
The meagre by the meagre were devour’d,
Even dogs assail’d their masters, all save one,
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
The birds and beasts and famish’d men at bay,
Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
Lur’d their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
Which answer’d not with a caress-—he died.
The crowd was famish’d by degrees; but two
Of an enormous city did survive,
And they were enemies: they met beside
The dying embers of an altar-place
Where had been heap’d a mass of holy things
For an unholy usage; they rak’d up,
And shivering scrap’d with their cold skeleton hands
The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
Blew for a little life, and made a flame
Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
Each other’s aspects—-saw, and shriek’d, and died—-
Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
Famine had written Fiend. The world was void,
The populous and the powerful was a lump,
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless-—
A lump of death—-a chaos of hard clay.
The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirr’d within their silent depths;
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp’d
They slept on the abyss without a surge—-
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
The moon, their mistress, had expir’d before;
The winds were wither’d in the stagnant air,
And the clouds perish’d; Darkness had no need
Of aid from them—-She was the Universe.”

-Diodati, July, 1816 by Lord Byron

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People

“Look at the people: elbows, knees, earlobes, crotches, feet, noses, lips, eyes, all the parts usually clothed, and they are engaged in whatever they usually do which is hardly ever delightful, their psyches stuffed with used matter and propaganda, advertising

propaganda, religious propaganda, sexual propaganda, political propaganda, assorted propaganda’s, and they themselves are dull and vicious. They are dull because they have been made dull and they are vicious because they are fearful of losing what they have.

The people are the biggest horror show on earth, have been for centuries. You could be sitting in a room with one of them now or with many of them. Or you could be one of them.

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Every time the phone rings or there is a knock on the door I’m afraid it will be one of the disgusting spiritually destroyed useless babbling ugly fawning hateful humans.

Or worse,on picking up the phone the voice I hear might be my own, or upon opening the door I will see myself standing there, a remnant of the wasted centuries, smiling a false smile, having learned well, having forgotten what I am here for.”

-from Betting on the Muse: stories and poems by Charles Bukowski.