Wednesday, February 24, 2016

   After months of writing, actually a few years, I post this journal piece by grace and by God. May it find and make its way to whoever needs to read it.  Our Journey Through Ulcerative Colitis.

* It is long-form journalism. Make sure you have a hot cup of tea and a soft seat before you take time to read!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The American Scholar, Musings on Emerson for Our Time

   The one thing in the world, of value, is the active soul. This every man is entitled to; this every man contains within him, although, in almost all men, obstructed, and as yet unborn.  The soul active sees absolute truth; and utters truth, or creates. In this action, it is genius....

    In this hope, I accept the topic... — The American Scholar. Let us inquire what light new days and events have thrown on his character, and his hopes.

     I come to this space, after a long absence, unable to remove The American Scholar from my mind. I lie pondering in the night, and by day I write - just not here. 

   I write about Thomas Nuttall who traveled the continent, unparalleled in his time, and I write of issues which Oregonians will soon be aware, of privacy concerns, love, and rights to safeguard, unparalleled in our time. 

   I keep certain convictions ever before me: I can love what I do not comprehend, and children and privacy rights are honorable to protect.

   At home, we are reading through Great American Speeches. We are discussing, pondering, and seeking to live words. We are inviting them into our awareness and actions, as we are ever aware that awareness and actions are needed today. 
   Questions of interpretation on The Oregon Equality Act (Senate Bill 2) sit before our governor and legislators. Right now. Today. Oregon parents need to know. Interpretation of The Oregon Equality Act will effect privacy rights for all Oregon's school children. 

   Other issues rise about us: Justice Scalia's passing, presidential races amok, education needs, and privacy concerns. Will we, together, come to the table to labor and think?

   If our age is marked by fear, so too, it's marked by apathy. It's time to act: to find loving solutions together, to be Man Thinking and cooperating together. 

   Let us look to Emerson, let us look to God. In these times, who is the American Scholar and what influences them?

   1. The first in time and the first in importance of the influences upon the mind is that of nature....The scholar is he of all men whom this spectacle most engages....He must settle its value in his mind. What is nature to him? 

   There is never a beginning, there is never an end, to the inexplicable continuity of this web of God, but always circular power returning into itself. Therein it resembles his own spirit, whose beginning, whose ending, he never can find, — so entire, so boundless. this school-boy under the bending dome of day, is suggested, that he and it proceed from one root; one is leaf and one is flower; relation, sympathy, stirring in every vein. And what is that Root? Is not that the soul of his soul?
   So much of nature as he is ignorant of, so much of his own mind does he not yet possess. And, in fine, the ancient precept, "Know thyself," and the modern precept, "Study nature," become at last one maxim. 

   2. The next great influence into the spirit of the scholar, is, the mind of the Past, — in whatever form, whether of literature, of art, of institutions, that mind is inscribed. Books are the best type of the influence of the past, and perhaps we shall get at the truth....

   Books are the best of things, well used; abused, among the worst. What is the right use? What is the one end, which all means go to effect? They are for nothing but to inspire.

  When the mind is braced by labor and invention, the page of whatever book we read becomes luminous with manifold allusion. 
   The discerning will read, in his Plato or Shakespeare, only that least part, — only the authentic utterances of the oracle; — all the rest he rejects, were it never so many times Plato's and Shakespeare's. 

   Colleges, in like manner, have their indispensable office, — to teach elements. But they can only highly serve us, when they aim not to drill, but to create; when they gather from far every ray of various genius to their hospitable halls, and, by the concentrated fires, set the hearts of their youth on flame. 

   3.  Action is with the scholar subordinate, but it is essential. Without it, he is not yet man. Without it, thought can never ripen into truth. Whilst the world hangs before the eye as a cloud of beauty, we cannot even see its beauty. Inaction is cowardice, but there can be no scholar without the heroic mind. The preamble of thought, the transition through which it passes from the unconscious to the conscious, is action. Instantly we know whose words are loaded with life, and whose not.

    I grasp the hands of those next me, and take my place in the ring to suffer and to work, taught by an instinct, that so shall the dumb abyss be vocal with speech. 

   I do not see how any man can afford, for the sake of his nerves and his nap, to spare any action in which he can partake. It (action) is pearls and rubies to his discourse.

  The mind now thinks; now acts; and each fit reproduces the other. When the artist has exhausted his materials, when the fancy no longer paints, when thoughts are no longer apprehended, and books are a weariness, — he has always the resource to live. Character is higher than intellect. Thinking is the function. Living is the functionary. The stream retreats to its source. A great soul will be strong to live, as well as strong to think. 

    I hear therefore with joy whatever is beginning to be said of the dignity and necessity of labor to every citizen. There is virtue yet in the hoe and the spade, for learned as well as for unlearned hands. And labor is everywhere welcome; always we are invited to work; only be this limitation observed, that a man shall not for the sake of wider activity sacrifice any opinion to the popular judgements and modes of action.  

   They are such as become Man Thinking. The office of the scholar is to cheer, to raise, and to guide men by showing them facts amidst appearances.  

   These being his functions, it becomes him to feel all confidence in himself, and to defer never to the popular cry. 

   In silence, in steadiness, in severe abstraction, let him hold by himself; add observation to observation, patient of neglect, patient of reproach; and bide his own time....
   He learns that he who has mastered any law in his private thoughts, is master to that extent of all men whose language he speaks...they drink his words because he fulfils for them their own nature....

   The people delight in it; the better part of every man feels, This is my music; this is myself. For a man, rightly viewed comprehendeth the particular natures of all men. It is one light which beams out of a thousand stars. It is one soul which animates all men. 

   If there is any period one would desire to be born in, — is it not the age of Revolution; when the old and the new stand side by side, and admit of being compared; when the energies of all men are searched by fear and by hope; when the historic glories of the old, can be compensated by the rich possibilities of the new era?  

   This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.