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By Ralph Waldo Emerson Self Reliance
There is a time in every man's education
when he arrives at the conviction that envy
is ignorance;
that imitation is suicide;
that he must take himself
for better,
for worse,
as his portion;
that though the wide universe is full of good,
no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him
but through his toil
bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.
The power which resides in him
is new in nature,
and none but he knows
what that is which he can do,
nor does he know until he has tried.
Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact,
makes much impression on him, and another none.
This sculpture in the memory is not without
preestablished harmony.
The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify
of that particular ray.
We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed
of that divine idea
which each of us represents.
It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted,
but God will not have his work made manifest By cowards.
A man is relieved and gay
when he has put his heart into his work and done his best;
but what he has said or done otherwise,
shall give him no peace.
It is a deliverance
which does not deliver.
In the attempt his genius deserts him;
no muse befriends; no invention, no hope.
Trust thyself:
every heart vibrates
to that iron string.
Accept the place the divine providence has found for you,
the society of your contemporaries,
the connection of events.
Great men have always done so,
and confided themselves childlike
to the genius of their age,
betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart,
working through their hands, predominating in all their being.
And we are now men,
and must accept
in the highest mind
the same transcendent destiny;
and not minors and invalids
in a protected corner,
not cowards fleeing before a revolution,
but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying
the Almighty effort,
and advancing on Chaos
and the Dark. . . .
These are the voices
which we hear
in solitude,
but they grow faint
and inaudible
as we enter
into the world.
Society everywhere is in conspiracy
against
the manhood
of every one of its members.
Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree,
for the better securing of his bread
to each shareholder,
to surrender
the liberty
and culture of the eater.
The virtue
in most request
is conformity.
Self-reliance
is its aversion.
It loves
not realities
and creators,
but names
and customs.
Whoso would be a man
must be a nonconformist.
He who would gather immortal palms
must not be hindered by the name of goodness,
but must explore
if it be goodness.
Nothing is at last sacred
but the integrity
of your own mind.
Absolve you to yourself,
and you shall have the suffrage of the world....
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin
of little minds,
adored by little statesmen
and philosophers and divines.
With consistency a great soul
has simply nothing to do.
He may as well concern himself
with his shadow on the wall.
Speak what you think now
in hard words,
and to- morrow speak
what to-morrow thinks in hard words again,
though it contradict every thing
you said to-day.
-- "Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood."
-- Is it so bad, then,
to be misunderstood?
Pythagoras was misunderstood,
and Socrates,
and Jesus,
and Luther,
and Copernicus,
and Galileo,
and Newton,
and every pure and wise spirit
that ever took flesh.
To be great
is to be misunderstood.
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Excerpt: Emerson's "Self Reliance"

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Transcript of "Excerpt: Emerson's "Self Reliance""

  1. 1. By Ralph Waldo Emerson Self Reliance
  2. 2. There is a time in every man's education
  3. 3. when he arrives at the conviction that envy
  4. 4. is ignorance;
  5. 5. that imitation is suicide;
  6. 6. that he must take himself
  7. 7. for better,
  8. 8. for worse,
  9. 9. as his portion;
  10. 10. that though the wide universe is full of good,
  11. 11. no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him
  12. 12. but through his toil
  13. 13. bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.
  14. 14. The power which resides in him
  15. 15. is new in nature,
  16. 16. and none but he knows
  17. 17. what that is which he can do,
  18. 18. nor does he know until he has tried.
  19. 19. Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact,
  20. 20. makes much impression on him, and another none.
  21. 21. This sculpture in the memory is not without
  22. 22. preestablished harmony.
  23. 23. The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify
  24. 24. of that particular ray.
  25. 25. We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed
  26. 26. of that divine idea
  27. 27. which each of us represents.
  28. 28. It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted,
  29. 29. but God will not have his work made manifest By cowards.
  30. 30. A man is relieved and gay
  31. 31. when he has put his heart into his work and done his best;
  32. 32. but what he has said or done otherwise,
  33. 33. shall give him no peace.
  34. 34. It is a deliverance
  35. 35. which does not deliver.
  36. 36. In the attempt his genius deserts him;
  37. 37. no muse befriends; no invention, no hope.
  38. 38. Trust thyself:
  39. 39. every heart vibrates
  40. 40. to that iron string.
  41. 41. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you,
  42. 42. the society of your contemporaries,
  43. 43. the connection of events.
  44. 44. Great men have always done so,
  45. 45. and confided themselves childlike
  46. 46. to the genius of their age,
  47. 47. betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart,
  48. 48. working through their hands, predominating in all their being.
  49. 49. And we are now men,
  50. 50. and must accept
  51. 51. in the highest mind
  52. 52. the same transcendent destiny;
  53. 53. and not minors and invalids
  54. 54. in a protected corner,
  55. 55. not cowards fleeing before a revolution,
  56. 56. but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying
  57. 57. the Almighty effort,
  58. 58. and advancing on Chaos
  59. 59. and the Dark. . . .
  60. 60. These are the voices
  61. 61. which we hear
  62. 62. in solitude,
  63. 63. but they grow faint
  64. 64. and inaudible
  65. 65. as we enter
  66. 66. into the world.
  67. 67. Society everywhere is in conspiracy
  68. 68. against
  69. 69. the manhood
  70. 70. of every one of its members.
  71. 71. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree,
  72. 72. for the better securing of his bread
  73. 73. to each shareholder,
  74. 74. to surrender
  75. 75. the liberty
  76. 76. and culture of the eater.
  77. 77. The virtue
  78. 78. in most request
  79. 79. is conformity.
  80. 80. Self-reliance
  81. 81. is its aversion.
  82. 82. It loves
  83. 83. not realities
  84. 84. and creators,
  85. 85. but names
  86. 86. and customs.
  87. 87. Whoso would be a man
  88. 88. must be a nonconformist.
  89. 89. He who would gather immortal palms
  90. 90. must not be hindered by the name of goodness,
  91. 91. but must explore
  92. 92. if it be goodness.
  93. 93. Nothing is at last sacred
  94. 94. but the integrity
  95. 95. of your own mind.
  96. 96. Absolve you to yourself,
  97. 97. and you shall have the suffrage of the world....
  98. 98. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin
  99. 99. of little minds,
  100. 100. adored by little statesmen
  101. 101. and philosophers and divines.
  102. 102. With consistency a great soul
  103. 103. has simply nothing to do.
  104. 104. He may as well concern himself
  105. 105. with his shadow on the wall.
  106. 106. Speak what you think now
  107. 107. in hard words,
  108. 108. and to- morrow speak
  109. 109. what to-morrow thinks in hard words again,
  110. 110. though it contradict every thing
  111. 111. you said to-day.
  112. 112. -- "Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood."
  113. 113. -- Is it so bad, then,
  114. 114. to be misunderstood?
  115. 115. Pythagoras was misunderstood,
  116. 116. and Socrates,
  117. 117. and Jesus,
  118. 118. and Luther,
  119. 119. and Copernicus,
  120. 120. and Galileo,
  121. 121. and Newton,
  122. 122. and every pure and wise spirit
  123. 123. that ever took flesh.
  124. 124. To be great
  125. 125. is to be misunderstood.
  126. 126. x
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