Thursday, July 20, 2006

R.W. Emerson Self-tout

This is an excerpt from the essay Self Reliance by Emerson:

But the man is, as it were, clapped into jail by his consciousness. As soon as he has once acted or spoken with eclat, he is a committed person, watched by the sympathy or the hatred of hundreds, whose affections must now enter into his account. There is no Lethe for this. Ah, that he could pass again into his neutrality! Who can thus avoid all pledges, and having observed, observe again from the same unaffected, unbiased, unbribable, unaffrighted innocence, must always be formidable. He would utter opinions on all passing affairs, which being seen to be not private, but necessary, would sink like darts into the ear of men, and put them in fear.

I've been reading some essays by Emerson, one of my favorite writers to quote. I find myself disagreeing with him in regard to Self-Reliance though.

He writes that our natural instincts should trump opinions and perceptions honed by existence, education, society, culture, etc.; a child's view is superior to that of an adult's since it has not been corrupted by experience.

Perception isn't pure and right simply because it hasn't been influenced by outside factors though. Humans as animals have an innate desire to eat, to fuck, but we don't run willy-nilly over creation stealing and raping to nourish those instincts, because civilization has pre-empted those needs in recognition that we need an ordered societal structure.

Par example: our president -- not exactly an algonquin roundtable nominee. Supporters call him "resolute" for tuning out opinions of the American and world majority and doing what he allegedly believes is right non grata (and in the fantasy bubble world in which he lives, I may cede that he does believe he is right).

But we can't live in fantasy worlds. It's necessary that you formulate beliefs and practices based on something more factual and applicable than instinct (or Biblical passages, but that's a whole other morass to get into). I understand the Ockam's razor notion of simplicity's credence, but even that simplicity is based on proven scientific fact.

Maybe childlike innocence is prefereable in some ways to adults formulating opinions around what they want to believe, not necessarily the truth, such as those that decide what ends they want (usually financial gain) and subsequently facilitate the means in their mind to make said means seem moral and/or logical, ala Bush. But I don't accept that our original humanity is always corrupted by experience.

Ralphie, no air rifle for you this Xmas. It all sounds like a rationale for laissez-faire, thunderdome behavior.

Although I can appreciate the notion of heaving a big helping heaping of "Fuck You" to conformity, so long as it bears reason in mind and isn't some ephemeral rebellion for the sake of rebellion.

Currently Listening To:

The Grates

Gravity Won't Get You High

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