Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Person of Powerful Character

To be honest, there were parts of Emerson's writing that I'm not sure I was fully able to grasp as I read it, but I like some of the points that (I think) he was trying to make. One such quote that he wrote that I find very interesting is: "And in common life, whosoever has seen a person of powerful character and happy genius, will have remarked how easily he took all things along with him, - the persons, the opinions, and the day, and nature became ancillary to a man" (Beauty). The way I interpret this (and feel free to correct me if anyone disagrees) is that a person of powerful character does not necessarily go about life questioning everything in it. While they may question some things, this person is not going to spend all of their time obsessing over what is "right and wrong," or trying to find a definition for everything that they come across. Instead, this person seems to take life as it comes, shaking off any misfortunes that come their way, and celebrating the joys that they encounter as well. I imagine this person is fully capable of taking a walk through a field somewhere and simply relaxing, taking in all of the nature around them without trying to come up with a "why" for it all. It is due to the person's ability to simply take things as they are that they are so powerful and a "happy genius," because they do not let their lack of knowledge (if you wish to call it that) dictate their lives. While other people obsess over what they don't know, this person is free to enjoy what they do know, and merely live their lives, perhaps inadvertently learning more along the way.


  1. I agree with you to a certain extent, but I think it's important to note than Emerson does call for a thoughtful effort; he says, "Nature stretcheth out her arms to embrace man, only let his thoughts be of equal greatness," and "Only let his thoughts be of equal scope, and the frame will suit the picture." I think you're right in saying that a person of great character may travel easily through life, but such a character must be attained through effort and understanding.

  2. I like your thinking about this Cassidy, but I would stress that Emerson goes ever further than just saying what a powerful person does -- rather, he stresses the way the world responds to that person."The persons, the opinions, and the day, and nature became ancillary to a man" : that is, the world *submits* to the power of the person. This is a fascinating idea, if Emerson isn't just being hyperbolic, which I don't think he is. This is one of the places where I think Emerson really expresses his idealism.