Humble, brilliant, and a free-thinker, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) was born on this day in Boston, Massachusetts. The third of six sons, his family was poor, but enjoyed reading.
A philosopher and writer, he believed redemption could be found in one's own soul and in the heart of intuition.
Emerson said, "If the single man plants himself indomitably on his instincts, and there abides, this huge world will come around to him."
A lover of ideas, in college he began keeping a journal and he continued writing his thoughts this way his entire life. His notebooks, called "Wide World," were filled with quotations.
"Reading and writing and talking and walking," he signed himself as "Waldo" and graduated from Harvard, then divinity school.
"Prayer," he wrote, "is the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view."
A descendent of seven generations of preachers, he became a Unitarian minister then left in 1832 following the death of his beloved young wife Ellen and after disagreeing with the church's doctrine on the sacrament of Communion and the accuracy of the Bible.
Like Thoreau and Carlyle, Emerson turned to Transcendentalism, a philosophical movement that looked to Nature for spiritual unity.
He called his lifelong search his "heart's inquiry," and said, "God enters by a private door into every individual." He urged every person to search and find their own path.
In his major essays Nature (1836) and Self-Reliance (1841), Emerson celebrated the individual and independent spirit. He believed in the power and truth of self-examination and the unending beauty of nature and mankind.
He said, "Nature arms each man with some faculty which enables him to do easily some feat impossible to any other."
In life--the joy, loss, and grace of life-- there is higher knowledge and revelation in all things. Just look and reflect, with humility and value.
"A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us," he wrote.
More EMERSON Quotations
There is value in every one you encounter.