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The Conduct of Life

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The Conduct of Life - Page Text Content

BC: All photos were pulled from Google images. By: Jennie Dannecker

FC: The Conduct of Life By: Ralph Waldo Emerson

1: Whilst all the world is in pursuit of power, and of wealth as a means of power, culture corrects the theory of success. A man is the prisoner of his power.

2: The pest of society is egotists. There are dull and bright, sacred and profane, coarse and fine egotists. 'Tis a disease that, like influenza, falls on all constitutions. In the distemper known to physicians as chorea, the patient sometimes turns round, and continues to spin slowly on one spot.

3: The preservation of the species was a point of such necessity, that Nature has secured it at all hazards by immensely overloading the passion, at the risk of perpetual crime and disorder. So egotism has its root in the cardinal necessity by which each individual persists to be what he is. This individuality is not only not inconsistent with culture, but is the basis of it

4: No performance is worth loss of geniality. 'Tis a cruel price we pay for certain fancy goods called fine arts and philosophy. In the Norse legend, Allfadir did not get a drink of Mimir's spring, (the fountain of wisdom,) until he left his eye in pledge. And here is a pedant that cannot unfold his wrinkles, nor conceal his wrath at interruption by the best, if their conversation do not fit his impertinency,--here is he to afflict us with his personalities.

5: Our arts and tools give to him who can handle them much the same advantage over the novice, as if you extended his life, ten, fifty, or a hundred years.

6: Books, as containing the finest records of human wit, must always enter into our notion of culture. The best heads that ever existed, Pericles, Plato, Julius Caesar, Shakspeare, Goethe, Milton, were well-read, universally educated men, and quite too wise to undervalue letters.

7: But books are good only as far as a boy is ready for them.

8: He hates the grammar and Gradus, and loves guns, fishing-rods, horses, and boats.

9: I observe that men run away to other countries, because they are not good in their own, and run back to their own, because they pass for nothing in the new places.

10: And, as a medical remedy, travel seems one of the best.

11: Especially women;--it requires a great many cultivated women,--saloons of bright, elegant, reading women, accustomed to ease and refinement, to spectacles, pictures, sculpture, poetry, and to elegant society, in order that you should have one Madame de Stael.

12: There are advantages in the old hat and box-coat. I have heard, that, throughout this country, a certain respect is paid to good broadcloth; but dress makes a little restraint: men will not commit themselves.

13: But the box-coat is like wine; it unlocks the tongue, and men say what they think.

14: Whilst we want cities as the centres where the best things are found, cities degrade us by magnifying trifles.

15: The countryman finds the town a chop-house, a barber's shop. He has lost the lines of grandeur of the horizon, hills and plains, and with them, sobriety and elevation.

16: A man in pursuit of greatness feels no little wants.

17: There is a great deal of self-denial and manliness in poor and middle-class houses, in town and country, that has not got into literature, and never will, but that keeps the earth sweet; that saves on superfluities, and spends on essentials; that goes rusty, and educates the boy; that sells the horse, but builds the school; works early and late, takes two looms in the factory, three looms, six looms, but pays off the mortgage on the paternal farm, and then goes back cheerfully to work again.

18: He who should inspire and lead his race must be defended from travelling with the souls of other men, from living, breathing, reading, and writing in the daily, time-worn yoke of their opinions.

19: The poet, as a craftsman, is only interested in the praise accorded to him, and not in the censure, though it be just. And the poor little poet hearkens only to that, and rejects the censure, as proving incapacity in the critic.

20: The influence of fine scenery, the presence of mountains, appeases our irritations and elevates our friendships.

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  • By: Jennie D.
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  • Title: The Conduct of Life
  • This is to better understand Ralph Waldo Emerson's The Conduct of Life.
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  • Published: over 10 years ago