Tag Archive: Ralph Waldo Emerson

Who is Ralph Waldo Emerson?



“If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me.”

–          Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am always intrigued and  interested in writers and philosophers of the near and distant past and their undeniable illumination and wisdom; wisdom and insight that rises above the threshold of dogma and ignorance that besieges much of our more recent history. Take the dark ages for instance: The intellectual gains of ancient Greece and the contributions of great thinkers like Plato and Aristotle were blurred and forsaken when Christianity inherited Europe. Even Galileo was accused of blasphemy for his theories in astronomy. Imagine where science and technology would be today if we continued to build from where ancient Greece left off, instead of backsliding into blind faith and stifled forward thinking for hundreds of years.

One such writer and poet that continues to intrigue me is Ralph Waldo Emerson. Born in 1803, Emerson is considered one of the great transcendentalist writers of his time.  His literary influences were seen as a reflection of individualism and a steward for challenging the dominant and dogmatic pressures of society:

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

“Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day.”

His essays and quotes talk about God not as a man but other things. His connection with nature was also interesting:

“There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, — no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God”

Fellow blogger, Kirk McElhearn offered this insight: “He understood that the world is not simply that which is outside of man, but also that the world is something that we create from our own experiences and feelings, a concept which the great Zen teachers have espoused for centuries.”

I find it empowering that in a close minded world, there are visionaries from our past that have awakened and it is reflected in their writings. Ralph Waldo Emerson saw the world as something special beyond just pulpits and scripture. He saw a world where energy and nature are the paying currency; mans actions and thoughts, its driving force:

“Man is the creator of his world.”

God enters by a private door into every individual.”

When you read deeper into Emerson’s contributions you see a man bathed under the illumination of clarity and awareness. Nature was his meditative sanctuary where he found further insight and healing energy. Within his writing you see this connection with the universe, but also a connection with himself – there is almost a Buddhist quality to his message and his writing shows us that serenity, silence and inner wisdom are paths to enlightenment.

John C. Bader

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Kirk McElhearn

Though you may travel the world to find the beautiful, you must have it within you or you will find it not.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

How true is this quote from the legendary Ralph Waldo Emerson? Many times we need to learn wisdom from the hard lessons in life – sometimes the painful way… I learned this wisdom the difficult way after graduating college. I had the opportunity to work in Los Angeles at an advertising firm – a referral from a professor who saw talent in me. Instead, I decided to throw caution to the wind and move to Hawaii to surf and follow my heart wish (or what I thought was my heart wish). Sounds great right? Yet, something was not right. I had much to still learn about myself and this thing called life.  My mindfulness was shortsighted and I could not put my finger on why I felt uncomfortable within; a boutique of bad habits, lacking self-esteem and energy. The result was one of the most humbling experiences ever: A mélange of bad karma that fed bad luck all of which contributed to the severed friendship of two great friends, a shattered ankle and a broken wrist; a job so inadequate I was on the cusp of poverty; left to picking sticky nickels out of the sofa to buy .99 cent burgers off the value menu. So downtrodden,  injured and mired with bills, I could not even surf some of the best waves in the world – and through it all I could not even remember the main reason I moved to Hawaii; all of this conflict and suffering while living under the warm and beautiful tropical sun. How ironic… Suffering in paradise…?

Ego and negative energy will follow you where ever you go… My own trappings from childhood and the demons of false-self traveled with me to paradise. But it was not a paradise. It was one of the most humbling experiences in my life. I look back on that experience now and see the art of the event; I see the wisdom from such encounters with suffering (and the cause of that suffering). The two long years I lived in Hawaii I grew from a boy to a man – from confusion to clarity. From that experience alone, I have learned that you can travel the world and find  beauty, but if you are not centered and self-actualized within; you will not experience beauty; only suffering. Our ego and false-self can create a mirror image or mirage that may look beautiful on the surface but deep down the root of such beauty is only veiled by the suffering intrinsic to our actions and reactions. Still the wisdom is to learn from such experiences – to evolve and prosper on the backbone of false-self – seizing a new day – a new paradise wherever you call home.

I look back on those days with some indifference; my feelings are complicated as the situations that created the memories now archived in my head. Still, we cannot escape our past for it is that old weed covered path we walked years ago that has led us to this point in the present. From negativity we can find wisdom; and from wisdom we can move soundly forward, clear, connected and self-actualized.


John C. Bader


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