It seemed to me as if I had myself written the book, in some former life, so sincerely it spoke to my thought and experience.Essays from Emerson include: Nominalist and Realist, Prudence, Wealth, Illusions, Fate, Experience, Montaigne; or, the Skeptic, and Power. I don't have much to say about them. But I will share with you some of my favorite passages from both Matt Berry and Emerson.
"Considering [Emerson's] proposal for our self-reliance, we would be more like Emerson if we were more like ourselves. And this is the point: it is not consistent with Emerson's message to parrot him; it is entirely something else however to engage in a method for securing one's own insights." (Matt Berry, p. 9)
"...it is so much easier to do what one has done before than to do a new thing, that there is a perpetual tendency to set mode... Each man... would impose his idea on others... Jesus would absorb the race: but Tom Paine or the coarsest blasphemer helps humanity by resisting this exuberance of power." (Emerson, p. 26)
"Life wastes itself whilst we are preparing to live." (Emerson, p. 43)
"He fancies himself in a vast crowd which sways this way and that, and whose movement and doings he must obey: he fancies himself poor, orphaned, insignificant. The mad crowd drives hither and thither, now furiously commanding this thing to be done, now that. What is he that he should resist their will, and think or act for himself? Every moment, new changes, and new showers of deceptions, to baffle and distract him. And when, by and by, for an instant, the air clears, and the cloud lifts a little, there are the gods still sitting around him on their thrones--they alone with him alone." (Emerson, p. 78)
"The bulk of mankind believe in two gods. They are under one dominion here in the house, as friend and parent, in social circles, in letters, in art, in love, in religion: but in mechanics, in dealing with steam and climate, in trade, in politics, they think they come under another; and that it would be a practical blunder to transfer the method and way of working of one sphere, into the other. What good, honest, generous men at home, will be wolves and foxes on change! What pious men in the parlor will vote for what reprobates at the polls! To a certain point, they believe themselves the care of a Providence. But, in a steamboat, in an epidemic, in war, they believe a malignant energy rules." (Emerson, p. 94)
"Let us build altars to the Beautiful Necessity. If we thought men were free in the sense that in a single exception one fantastical will could prevail over the law of things, it were all one as if a child's hand could pull down the sun. If in the least particular one could derange the order of nature--who would accept the gift of life?" (Emerson, p. 103)
"What is the use of pretending to powers we have not? What is the use of pretending to assurances we have not, respecting the other life?... If there is a wish for immortality, and no evidence, why not say just that?... If there is not ground for a candid thinker to make up his mind, yea or nay--why not suspend the judgment? I weary of these dogmatizers. I tire of these hacks of routine, who deny the dogmas. I neither affirm nor deny. I stand here to try the case. I am here to consider, skopein [to look out or explore], to consider how it is. I will try to keep the balance true... Why fancy that you have all the truth in your keeping?" (Emerson, p. 132-3)
"Let us have a robust, manly life: let us know what we know, for certain; what we have, let it be solid and seasonable and our own... Let us have to do with real men and women, and not with skipping ghosts." (Emerson, p. 134)
"The ground occupied by the skeptic is the vestibule of the temple. Society does not like to have any breath of question blown on the existing order. But the interrogation of custom at all points is an inevitable stage in the growth of every superior mind, and is the evidence of its perception of the flowing power which remains itself in all changes." (Emerson, p. 141)
"With adults, as with children, one class enter cordially into the game, and whirl with the whirling world; the others have cold hands, and remain bystanders; or are only dragged in by the humor and vivacity of those who can carry a dead weight." (Emerson, p. 152)
from the publisher:
The popular version of Emerson has all of its weight on one side only: "Emerson is an idealist. Our generation is made up of materialists. We are irreconcilable." Now, in order to recover that equilibrium which Emerson himself did not fail to demonstrate, we might place on the public scales a counterweight to "Emerson, author of The Over-soul." In doing so, we risk leaving the impression that we now say, "Emerson is not an idealist but a materialist." There is a difference however between presenting a balanced scale and an attempt to balance a scale by presenting a counterweight. This selection of essays risks its own objective by presenting itself as the counterweight.