Wisdom of Life

Ralph Waldo Emerson: On Love, Beauty and the Purpose of Life

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.”

“A great man is always willing to be little.”

“Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.”

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. It is not the length of life, but the depth that matters.

We are always getting ready to live, but never living. What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. 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.

It is easy to live for others, everybody does. I call on you to live for yourself. To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. Don’t waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good. 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. Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self. There is something which you can do better than another. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for.

Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old. Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting some on yourself. Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet. Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded! Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it. Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect. Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.

What I must do, is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

He who is in love is wise and is becoming wiser, sees newly every time he looks at the object beloved, drawing from it with his eyes and his mind those virtues which it possesses.

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.

This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips, sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being, faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth, Love to complete your life.”

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”

“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn”

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

***

~Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century.

Excerpts from:

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emerson in His Journals
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emerson’s Essays 

©Excellence Reporter 2019

Categories: Wisdom of Life

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