Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Did Emerson Pee in the Shower?

People who pen their own obituaries have always struck me as comically self-absorbed or too closely adherent to Emerson's admonition regarding the unexamined life. Anyone who has spent much time with Ralph Waldo (say, for a still-bitterly-resented survey of 19th century American lit, just as an example) knows that the dean of American transcendentalism was a gasbag whose works linger on as pithy one-line aphorisms because their main body is less readable than Mao's Red Book. A particularly turgid example follows (from "The Over Soul"):

We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related, the eternal ONE. And this deep power in which we exist and whose beatitude is all accessible to us, is not only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject and the object, are one. We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are shining parts, is the soul.

Not so this guy.


Anonymous said...

Well, son, you certainly had fun with that one, didn't you? Seriously, I loved Fred's obit. And I thought the quote about men living lives of quiet desperation and being unexamined was from Thoreau. I guess you are still teaching your dear old mom but must you be so cruel? Added comment from the paterfamilias: What's so bad about peeing in the shower? Seems you and I have done it together at times in the past. And, Emerson probably had a tub.

Tripp said...

Nothing like getting publicly joked by Mom at age 35, eh Steve?

Steve said...

That's what I get for goading her. And I blew the attribution - I thought Emerson said the unexamined life is not worth living but turns out it was Socrates. I was only off by a couple of thousand years, really. I still don't like the logorrheic old goat.

I'm off to have some salt water taffy, looks at pictures of Leah's metal bikini and feel sorry for myself.

Tripp said...

Great, a normal Friday for you then.