Ralph Waldo Emerson: Looking at circles beyond the obvious

circle The term circle generally conjures up images of a simple geometric shape; it denotes a plane enclosed figure whose boundary (the circumference) consists of points equidistant from a fixed center. But if we think of a circle in more abstract terms, we can go beyond; for aren’t thoughts a trail of interrelated ideas? Not linear, but linked so they can reconnect; hence…like a circle.

Today this writer will introduce or reintroduce to you, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1870), the central figure in his literary and philosophical group, now known as the American Transcendentalists. He looked at “circles” in a most eloquent way, which I find worthy of contemplation. So…I have taken the liberty of extracting pieces from his essay into a reflection for this day’s blog.

“The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without an end…Our life is an apprenticeship of the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens…Every ultimate fact is only the first of a new series. Every general law only a particular fact of some more general law presented to disclose itself. ..The key to every man is thought. Sturdy and defying though he look, he has a helm which he obeys, which is the idea after which all his facts are classified. He can only be reformed by showing him a new idea which commands his own. The life of man is a self-evolving circle, which, from a ring imperceptibly small, rushes on all sides outwards to new and larger circles, and that without end… “