I read a little bit of Emerson in my junior year high school English class, but at the time I didn’t really think about it too much. Coming back to it now, I can appreciate it more after having further experience with nature-based literature. There were several quotes that stood out in these five chapters, but the two I chose made me stop and ponder the longest.
“The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to influence. Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all of her perfection,” (1827).
This quote creates a very mystical image with the mention of stars and impressions and the idea of perfection. I felt that Emerson was giving nature a humanistic description, but at the same time I understood that it was something beyond my containment or control. I was introduced to the idea that nature is so vast and complex that though it may always be present, there is no way to access or grasp all of it at once. Nature is described as so perfect and important that even the wisest man can never truly understand it completely. That line is what really struck me because there are countless aspects of the world that humans are able to understand with the use of intelligence, but the very earth itself is beyond our capacity. I related this to the rest of the sections by thinking about how mankind can see nature as so many different things, but the fact is that truly understanding it is an entirely different concept. There really is no way to know all of nature’s secrets, and that might frustrate some people, but I think it’s fascinating to consider and discuss.
“Man is conscious of a universal soul within or behind his individual life, wherein, as in firmament, the natures of Justice, Truth, Love, Freedom, arise and shine. This universal soul, he calls Reason: It is not mine, or thine, or his, but we are its; we are its property and men. And the blue sky in which the private earth is buried, the sky with its eternal calm, and full of everlasting orbs, is the type of Reason,” (1834).
I think it’s interesting that Emerson refers to Reason as the “universal soul” because it belongs to nobody though we all belong to it. Again, I thought the tone was sort of ethereal in talking about the earth and the sky and orbs and the universe. That’s something I highly enjoy in writing because it makes me sense that there is so much more to the universe than just mankind. It makes the topic Emerson is talking about feel big and important, yet somehow almost not real.
To call the universal soul Reason seems like a bold statement, but Emerson makes me believe it the way he describes how we as humans are property to it. He also talks about calmness in relation to the earth which I think about with encounters of nature. Nature makes the universe seem calm. It’s also interesting that Emerson brings up Justice, Truth, Love, and Freedom because these are virtues that we hear about over and over again. They’re like the big four (especially in Greek thought). But we don’t often hear about Reason as much. That is what made the quote stand out for me.
I enjoyed reading about nature and how Emerson described it.