Saturday, July 15, 2006

Wouldn't Be Prudent

One of the things I like about Emerson is that he thinks about so many things. Even if I don't agree with him, I appreciate his thoughtfulness. These days it seems most intellectuals are stuck within a given framework--I am a scientist so I will only comment on science, etc. So few appear to have the ability to discuss a range of subject matter. This is a shame because I believe innovation and insight and creativity need a broader vista in order to connect the dots. Emerson has a vision and all subjects are available for examination to determine how they fit into and feed the vision. Over and over, Emerson digs down through the surface of an idea to locate a foundation, a root, a riverbed. It's like all these things are tributaries to a giant river that leads to a vast sea. Whether or not I agree, whether or not I find the tributary to by dried up or filled with rapids, watching a mind at work is exciting and oils the cogs of my sluggish thoughts. Emerson's essay on Prudence is filled with all kinds of interesting snippets which I find more thought-provoking than the whole. Snippets like "We write from aspiration and antagonism, as well as experience." And "Time, which shows so vacant, indivisible and divine in its coming, is slit and peddled into trifles and tatters." And "The hard soil and four months of snow make the inhabitant of the northern temperate zone wiser and abler than his fellow who enjoys the fixed smile of the tropics." (I want to know if I can get extra credit wisdom points since there can be snow here from November through April?) And "He that despiseth small things will perish by little and little." And "Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of human society." And "These old shoes are easy to the feet." There are a few others but I will stop there, you get the point. As for the prudence part, "Prudence is the virtue of the senses," or rather the appearance of prudence. Because for Emerson prudence is an outward expression of an inward life. To limit prudence as a surface expression is a mistake from all angles, for both the one who is prudent and the one observing the prudence. Prudence is more than materialistic and should be regarded as an outward expression of the individual's adherence to the spiritual laws of nature. Prudence is "the art of securing a present well-being." To ignore the connection between the inward soul and outward well-being just wouldn't be prudent. Next week's Emerson: Heroism