Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fit For Use

Beyond the universality of the symbolic language, we are apprised of the divineness of this superior use of things, whereby the world is a temple, whose walls are covered with emblems, pictures and commandments of the Deity, in this that there is no fact in nature which does not carry the whole sense of nature, and the distinctions which we make in events, and in affairs, of low and high, honest and base, disappear when nature is used as a symbol. Thought makes every thing fit for use.

The vocabulary of an omniscient man would embrace words and images excluded from polite conversation. What would be base, or even obscene, to the obscene, becomes illustrious, spoken in a new connexion of thought. The piety of Hebrew prophets purges their grossness. The circumcision is an example of the power of poetry to raise the low and offensive. Small and mean things serve as well as great symbols. The meaner the type by which a law is expressed, the more pungent it is, and the more lasting in the memories of men: just as we choose the smallest box, or case, in which any needful utensil can be carried. Bare lists of words are found suggestive, to an imaginative and excited mind; as it is related of Lord Chatham, that he was accustomed to read in Bailey’s Dictionary, when he was preparing to speak to Parliament. The poorest experience is rich enough for all purposes of expressing thought.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote those thoughts in his 1841 essay, The Poet. Emerson gets to the root of things, no matter what they are by expressing himself using different aspects of his consciousness. He looks at the rational and calls it insanity. He sees words and symbols and realizes they are half baked attempts to express perceptions and beliefs about the natural of being. Emerson finds truth in nature’s expressions and he vibrates with them as he thinks and writes. When we take a moment and look around us, we sense the senselessness of our learned behavior. It is a shell game with no shell.

We pay attention to great words and symbols and let the small words pass through the open drain of unawareness that seems to follow us through our physical illusions. Emerson says it all when he reminds us that the poorest experience is rich enough for all purposes of expressing thought. Experiences are thoughts manifested physically.

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