The whole Universe one system of Society. Nothing made wholly for itself, nor yet wholly for another. The happiness of animals mutual.
I have been studying this essay for years. I consider it one of the most significant pieces of writing ever written. I once typed the whole essay word for word and printed it out on my computer as a booklet.
I put the essay on tape and listened to it over and over while driving. And I tried to apply it to my life. Then, to understand it even more deeply, I went over it line by line, trying to write what Emerson was saying in my own words.
That rewrite project is what follows. I love his writing. My motivation for translating it came from an entirely different source.
The idea was inspired by a Cliff Notes. I had always considered Cliff Notes as a kind of cheating. Then one day I saw the movie Henry V. I really liked it but I only understood about half of what was being said.
They were speaking English, but three things were hindering my understanding: English was spoken differently back then. They commonly used words we are now unfamiliar with. Shakespeare was a poet, so he often inverts sentences and uses unusual phrases in order to make things sound poetic.
They were speaking with an English accent. And he was a poet, so some of his phrases were meant to be savored rather than read only for their direct meaning.
I remember, for example, the phrase, "throwing down a gage. It is an archaic term that means throwing gloves at the feet of someone, which back then meant you were challenging the person to a duel. I could have watched Henry V fifty times and not ever figured that out.
But after I learned it, I understood better what was going on when I watched the movie again. Whenever I read something truly original, I get a feeling.
That feeling is far more valuable than the statements themselves. The feeling fills me with a recognition of a profound truth: That genius is simply to "believe your own thought.
The voice in your own mind is so familiar to you that you give it no respect. They expressed what they truly thought; they listened to their own voice. You must learn to detect the light that shines from within and pay it more respect than the blinding illumination of the great minds of all history.
When you look at wonderful works of art, let it teach you this. Speak out what your own perception, your own impression tells you is true and speak with boldness and trust.
As Emerson wrote, "envy is ignorance; imitation is suicide. Try to imitate someone else and you kill off that originality which is you. Envy is a lack of appreciation of your own special gifts.
Follow your own interest. It will lead you where you need to go. You are an expression of this vast and wondrous universe. You are one of the things the universe is doing right now.
This immense, mysterious existence is expressing itself everywhere at every moment.
For the miracle to be expressed through you, it will take courage and a firm dedication to truth and authenticity.
The greatness of the universe cannot be expressed by cowards. Be brave and true to yourself.
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