The Watering Hole; Friday March 6 2015; Ralph Waldo Emerson, Transcendentalism, and the GOP

Transcendentalism called on people to view the objects in the world as small versions of the whole universe and to trust their individual intuitions. The two most noted American transcendentalists were Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) was an essayist, a poet, a transcendentalist, and a philosopher. His biography and his writings are fascinating and compelling and well worth a serious look, but what interests me more in this day and age is how he managed — almost 200 years ago — to sum up some of the MAJOR problems the country is suffering today. Below are a handful of quotes by Emerson which could have been spoken or written TODAY, and if so would not sound even a day out of date.

“People only see what they are prepared to see.”

“When a whole nation is roaring patriotism at the top of its voice,
I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart.”

“The Religion that is afraid of science dishonours God and commits suicide.”

“The louder he spoke of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

“Fear always springs from ignorance.”

“The civility of no race can be perfect whilst another race is degraded. It is a doctrine alike of the oldest and of the newest philosophy, that man is one, and that you cannot injure any member, without a sympathetic injury to all the members.”

“Historical Christianity has fallen into the error that corrupts all attempts to communicate religion. As it appears to us, and as it has appeared for ages, it is not the doctrine of the soul, but an exaggeration of the personal, the positive, the ritual. It has dwelt, it dwells, with noxious exaggeration about the person of Jesus. The soul knows no persons. It invites every man to expand to the full circle of the universe, and will have no preferences but those of spontaneous love.”

“A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.”

[T]he general system of our trade…is a system of selfishness; is not dictated by the high sentiments of human nature; is not measured by the exact law of reciprocity; much less by the sentiments of love and heroism, but is a system of distrust, of concealment, of superior keenness, not of giving but of taking advantage.”

“All conservatives are such from personal defects. They have been effeminated by position or nature, born halt and blind, through luxury of their parents, and can only, like invalids, act on the defensive.”

“Conservatism makes no poetry, breathes no prayer, has no invention; it is all memory.”

Is that not a nearly perfect — albeit abbreviated — episodic summation of today’s American Fascist Movement (aka the GOP), including its evangelical “Christian” contingent? I guess Emerson was either incredibly prescient, or maybe the dregs of the human species are always invariably predictable to anyone who practices transcendentalism.

Or maybe Emerson’s fellow transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau nailed it when he wrote (Journal, 14/3 1838):

“The mass never comes up to the standard of its best member, but on the contrary degrades itself to a level with the lowest.”

2015’s GOP therein defined.




73 thoughts on “The Watering Hole; Friday March 6 2015; Ralph Waldo Emerson, Transcendentalism, and the GOP

  1. I usually just X out the ads that pop up on YouTube videos but one caught my attention this morning: The Duval County GOP is advertising Ted Cruz’s appearance in Jacksonville at their Lincoln Day dinner on February 20th!

    • I think they both sublimed into higher beings – like Wesley Crusher did

    • Ah yes. If only there was a god out there somewhere we’d all be safe. Too bad, how sad there ain’t one. Means we’ll have to be smart enough to deal with stuff ourselves, and we clearly are not. Oh well.

    • What I find outrageous is a lawmaker proudly boasting that he is legislating based on his personal religious beliefs. Our country needs to find a way to put a stop to that.

      • Problem is, too many voters believe the same shit Inhofe parrots. Reminds me of what an old college roomie liked to say some fifty-plus years ago — “If only we could find a way to get rid of ‘Faith.'” I’ve not yet found any counter-argument that has any validity or makes a nickel’s worth of sense.

        See also Emerson, above.

    • These people like Inhofe don’t even understand their own religion. Inhofe is basically being so vain as to legislate god’s mind to god — which is to say, he’s taking god’s name (to himself) in vain (out of vanity.) For the record, that is what the commandment actually means.

    • “The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, could just write something in a book and it is simply true because we invoke some invisible sky-wizard is to me outrageous.”

  2. I knew it had to happen. FINALLY the REAL truth is beginning to leak out! //

    Frank Gaffney: Was Clinton Aide Huma Abedin Emailing Muslim Brotherhood Spies?

    One other State Department official evidently violated [the department’s email] policy: Mrs. Clinton‘s deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin.

    Her emails are of particular interest insofar as Ms. Abedin has extensive ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

    Kris Kobach: ‘Not A Huge Jump’ To Think Obama Could Ban Criminal Prosecution Of Black People

    “Given the situation in Minnesota, given the recent story that Obama was instructing immigration enforcement to not enforce the immigration laws against illegal aliens, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch, Kris, to envision an announcement that any black person accused of a crime, charged with a crime, is not going to be prosecuted, regardless of the crime,” he said, adding that “we’ve already seen it from Eric Holder in his failure to prosecute the Black Panthers.”

  3. There was Lyndon Larouchie on a street corner yesterday:

    “Do not be Putin-hater, Putin is your friend”

    I didn’t have time to stop and pee my pants laughing – I might later today, if he hasn’t been taken away and given a coat with long sleeves.

  4. I was pleased to see the Emerson theme in the top heading, as I’ve been rereading most (maybe all) of Emerson’s essays over the past few and next several weeks. (A friend of mine decided to restart his dissertation process — he dropped out a few years back — and he’s writing on Emerson and Whitehead. My colleague and co-author from SIUC is the dissertation director, and I began sitting in on their weekly Emerson sessions. This has now evolved into a full-blown Emerson Reading Group.)

    • Glad you spotted it. There’s a whole lot of wisdom ‘out there’ that’s wrapped up in books and writings of a great many sages from days past, and Emerson certainly falls beneath that banner. What strikes me is how often the truths written hundreds of years ago, when read today, expose the reality that nothing much changes in the human condition over the centuries, that foibles remain foibles even though they were long ago exposed as such. I read Dickinson, Wordsworth, Emerson, Thoreau, Burns, Eliot, Frost, Shakespeare . . . and am stunned at how much of what they knew back then touches the consciousness of so few today. Also fascinated by how much ancient crapola is so often spouted by so many — and believed by millions more — virtually every day of every modern year.

  5. Iran is ‘taking over Iraq’ and Obama must put boots on the ground against Isil, warns Saudi Arabia

    Saudi Arabia became the second key American ally in the Middle East to demand President Barack Obama change tack towards Iran on Thursday, as it called for US-led coalition “boots on the ground” to fight Isil.

    Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, told John Kerry, the US secretary of state, that he risked allowing Iran to “take over Iraq”, echoing Israel’s recent concerns over the White House’s policy toward Tehran.

    The United States and its coalition allies are attacking Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) positions from the air in both Syria and Iraq, but refusing to send troops. As a result, outside Kurdish areas the offensive in both countries is heavily influenced by Iran and its proxy Shia militias such as Hizbollah.

    This has raised serious concerns in Saudi Arabia, Iran’s Sunni rival for Middle East dominance.

    First Netanyahu, and now the Saudis? I think we should pull the whole thing out of the entire Med. Let ’em settle it for themselves. The days of fighting wars as the Saudis’ mercenaries are over.

      • I think most of them are in Syria….. where do you think those ISIS johnnies came from?

    • I’ve been saying for years that the only interest we’ve ever really had in the M.E. is oil, and since there’s money in it they’ll sell it to us whether they like us or not. Israel? They already have more nukes than Iran will ever have, so why worry? If Po(o)ppy Bush would have stayed out of Kuwait, there wouldn’t be much of a problem over that way at all, since that incursion pissed off Hussein and got al Qaeda underway. Then came Dubya and the rest is foul history. I still say GTFOOT and stay out.

    • Dear Saudi Kings and such.
      Put your own populace’s boots on the effing sand, er, ground.
      ISIL isn’t really a threat to ‘us’. Just you.

    • Ok I just read it again, I am amazed this fella has the smarts to put his pants on after his keks in the morning.

      • He’s an Aussie – that would be his ‘strides after his grundies or his fartslicer’

    • So: he won’t listen to science because “the evolutionary interpretation is based upon basically a belief system that evolution happened,” but accepts the nonsense that “the Bible gives us an eyewitness report — people who were there from the beginning that’s recorded down, and it’s about 6,000 years old.”

      Are creationists nuts? Stupid? Retarded? All of the above?

      Evolution isn’t a “belief system,” it’s data-based. The bible, meanwhile, is nothing BUT a “belief system,” one without a single shred of verifiable data anywhere.

      • Did you see this dude’s picture?… lights are on, nobody’s home.

  6. Headline says it all:

    Woman ‘burning for Jesus’ sets hair on fire and climbs a tree — where she demands drugs and a ride to Kentucky

    (she was in Tennessee)

    • It was just a normal Sunday service until the ‘ride to Kentucky’ came up – then it took a sinister twist, eh?

  7. (I’m livid, seething, reading this – that Repub needs a good what TtT has determined not to call out this year)

    Arkansas Republican dodges blame for giving adopted daughters to rapist: I’m a victim here

    Loathsome Repugnant couple re-homes adopted daughters to couple who then re-re-homes to a pedophile who violates the little girls…
    The blame should be placed squarely on the Harris family!

      • Assholes who don’t want to be parents after they thought shallowly how nice it would be to be a parent. Assholes.

        • Yes. When you adopt a child, you commit to them as same as when you chose to have a birth child. You get whom you get, and do your best to let them live to their potential.

      • Exactly – and then be ‘re-re-homed’ to a pedophile.

        All three couples need to be arrested and jailed for child trafficking!
        I’m feeling so much heartache over those girls.

      • Of course, he deserves to have the government handout. (spit and double spit)

        He and his wife need to be arrested for child trafficking. None of this ‘we didn’t know’/we’re innocent crap.

  8. “It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”
    – John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent

    • I saw that somewhere maybe wapo………. …. I suppose this tosser is a rancher worried about his beef herd?

        • Please, please, compassionate conservatism//

          despicable that he’d even have the thought of harming humans and wolves.

    • Young doesn’t seem to realize that there’s never been a verified attack on a human by a healthy wolf anywhere in N. America. He is a Republican though, so it could be just teh stupid showing.

    • Rep Young is the prime example of idiocrasy, hard at work in the 48th state.

    • Put his ass in San Quentin, or, better yet Pelican Bay then interview the

  9. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., an honorary co-chairman of the Selma trip and the only African-American Republican in the Senate, said voting rights and the commemoration of Selma should be “de-coupled.”

    “The issue of voting rights legislation and the issue of Selma, we ought to have an experience that brings people together and not make it into a political conversation,” Scott said, seemingly without nary a whiff irony.

    • OK Steve, let’s decouple the War of Northern Aggression from the Emancipation Act…. get yer African ass over to Senator Butters’ plantation and start picking that cotton!

    • Good news Tim! We can both commemorate Selma and have an experience that brings people together by agreeing that all of us are created equal and must have an equal voice in the governance of our nation.

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