Swiping my way through my Twitter feed the other day I saw this:
Flashing back to my college years, I remembered being forced to read something by Emerson and having to write a paper. I didn’t remember anything at all about what I read or wrote — other than the fact that I found Emerson to be a total snooze, and that the professor seemed to find it incredible that I wasn’t inspired.
But I did click the link and, to my shock and embarrassment, I realized that “Self-Reliance” was the piece by Emerson that had bored me in college. Daniel’s article made it seem fascinating, so I found Emerson’s original online. It opens with this:
“Ne te quaesiveris extra.”¹
“Man is his own star; and the soul that can
Render an honest and a perfect man,
Commands all light, all influence, all fate;
Nothing to him falls early or too late.
Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,
Our fatal shadows that walk by us still.”
~Epilogue to Beaumont and Fletcher’s Honest Man’s Fortune
Cast the bantling² on the rocks,
Suckle him with the she-wolf’s teat;
Wintered with the hawk and fox,
Power and speed be hands and feet.
Inspired, moved, I was sucked in. How could I have been bored by this in college? I can only say that I wasn’t mature enough to appreciate it back then. Thirty-odd years of living, growing, and maturing have made “Self-Reliance” into a great essay. I now wholeheartedly recommend that you read it in its entirety.
Note: The Beaumont and Fletcher quote from “Self-Reliance” echoes the opening lines of Crowley’s “Book of the Law.” Here’s an idea for an article, blog post, or term paper: examine “Self-Reliance” through the lens of Thelema. Emerson came along fifty years before Crowley…
1: “Do not seek outside yourself”
2: A bantling is a young child. Probably has same root as bantam, meaning small.