Ralph Waldo Emerson and quietude

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Perhaps we need a requiem for a quiet moment for I fear that moments of quietude are on the endangered list; right behind solitude. To find quiet is like trying to find a spot at a picnic without ants. We are in a time where there is a constant flow of attention and noise. Close your eyes and take a moment. Listen. It matters not if you are alone in a room for regardless of how hard you may try there is some underlying noise. The hum of the refrigerator or the off and on of the gas heater. Go outside; there is a chronic bombardment of noises echoing from cars, planes, construction, and lawn mowers.  Even among the spender offered by far-off parks, a helicopter circles the canyons and waterfalls. A bulwark of noises all too great for Mother Nature’s whispers.

And so, we must believe that there are places where stillness exists and nature is given back her power to speak… I hope. Ralph Waldo Emerson 2jpg

Today’s post brings back the esteemed thinker and expert on tranquility; Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1870), who said “Nature is made to conspire with spirit to emancipate us.” The central figure in his literary and philosophical group, now known as the American Transcendentalists, he was a preacher, philosopher, and poet, as well as being considered having the finest spirit and ideals of his age. Emerson was a bold thinker having penned essays and gave lecture that offer models of clarity, style, and thought, which guaranteed him a formidable presence in 19th century American life. He offered his views on the harmonies of man and nature, intellectual and spiritual independence, self-reliance, and Utopian friendship. He was a committed Abolitionist, a champion of the Native Americans, and a crusader for peace and social justice.

I now invite you to contemplate a stanza from his poem titled Walden, snipped from his book Society and Solitude (1875).

In cities high the careful crowds

Of woe-worn mortals darkling go,

But in these sunny solitudes

My quiet roses blow.

William Hazlitt and a moment in time

clock big ben Moments are tiny elements of time… a cough, a sneeze, a glance…if we were to calculate how long it takes to react or to perform one of these events it would be correct to say…”just a moment”. And so we see that such a modest allotment, however, can manufacture an enormous memory…a memory so grand and so big that you can carry it about with you and resurrect that instant back into the present. A chance greeting with a dignitary in a receiving line, a hug from grandmother, or even the first time you listened to the air circling about in a conch shell…a moment that has endured for such a long duration that if it had been a rose it would have lost its brilliance and dried into a petrified flower.

Walk by a bakery and the wisp of baked goods will linger yet it was but a brief encounter that set the olfactory in motion. Small pleasures in comparison to big events do not always leave the same mark for it is not always the largest occasion that leaves the most favorable memory. Rather, there are moments which were not trifles happenings, but in its place have severed a wound or engraved a wedge so profound that its removal seems overpowering… a quick glib, a sarcastic comment, an angry glare… the same amount of time yet its effects we wish or hope would disappear as quickly as they were created. Moments in time happen in day and night and its effects are as different as its counterparts light and dark…

How often have we heard someone say.. ”Oh, wait just a moment,” or “ it will arrive in just a moment.” Yet we know deep down that the accuracy of the statement is not truthful; for the calculated “moment” dwindles in a quagmire of reinterpreted time.
A moment -in -time is a constant measurement like the twenty-four hours it takes the Earth to rotate; it is always the same yet the impact we feel in a given moment can be small or big, tiny or enormous, it can leave us feeling light in thought or heavy with burden, so little like a whisper yet so strong like a hurricane….strange …isn’t it?

william hazlitt 2 Today’s blog invites you back to revisit our esteemed thinker: William Hazlitt, a Romantic era writer. This English author and philosopher turned criticism into an art form. His prose and essays were eloquent in style and language, although not without controversy for he was a most principled and outspoken in his thinking.

Let us now take “a moment of time” to read a portion snipped from his essay, “Great and Little Things” (1821) . Here is the ever so expressive Mr. Hazlitt…

“ … The great and the little have, no doubt, a real existence in the nature of things; but they both find pretty much the same level in the mind of man. It is a common measure, which does not always accommodate itself to the size and importance of the objects it represents. It has a certain interest to spare for certain things (and no more) according to its humour and capacity; and neither likes to be stinted in its allowance, nor to muster up an unusual share of sympathy, just as the occasion may require. Perhaps, if we could recollect distinctly, we should discover that the two things that have affected us most in the course of our lives have been, one of them of the greatest, and the other of the smallest possible consequence. To let that pass as too fine a speculation, we know well enough that very trifling circumstances do give us great and daily annoyance, and as often prove too much for our philosophy and forbearance, as matters of the highest moment. A lump of soot spoiling a man’s dinner, a plate of toast falling in the ashes, the being disappointed of a ribbon to a cap or a ticket for a ball, have led to serious and almost tragical consequences…

The truth is, we pamper little griefs into great ones, and bear great ones as well as we can. We can afford to dally and play tricks with the one, but the others we have enough to do with, without any of the wantonness and bombast of passion—without the swaggering of Pistol or the insolence of King Cambyses’ vein. To great evils we submit; we resent little provocations. I have before now been disappointed of a hundred pound job and lost half a crown at rackets on the same day, and been more mortified at the latter than the former…”

First image: Big Ben: London