Echoing conversations with Gethyn, Mel and Gerri through the ages…
There exists a “thread of influence” I have detected when I read Emerson, which wends its way through his observations and my own and across time and space, his life and my own. I decipher a reflection and at once a glimmer is generated in my own intellect: the realisation that he ideated something in the 19th century that I believe today; I am conscious of traces of his influences in my own thoughts, actions and life, and this cross-pollination is wonderful to me.
“Some men classify objects by colour and size and other accidents of appearance: others by intrinsic likeness, or by the relation of cause and effect. The progress of the intellect consists in the clearer vision of causes, which overlooks surface differences. To the poet, to the philosopher, to the saint, all things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine. For the eye is fixed on the life, and slights the circumstance. Every chemical substance, every plant, every animal in its growth, teaches the unity of cause, the variety of appearance.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, HistoryAlthough this statement, in isolation, is self-evident, it is but an ingredient of a broader significance: to always probe below the exterior; and not merely consent to “History” (with a capital haitch) and reiterate it, by rote; rather, scrutinise, critically engage with it and certify it before accepting it as truth. In examining history and historical figures critically, one comes to comprehend – and hopefully accept! – that those figures and events, whilst celebrated, were remarkable contemporaneously and must always be framed within those contexts.
I am minded of Suetonius’ biographies of Caligula and Nero (the ostensibly “bad” Emperors), which presented the facts in an unbiased – not cold or dispassionate, as his writings and facts have been characterised – manner; for example, citing Nero’s aptitude for the written word; without employing the oft-used tool of invective, as Historians were, and are wont to do.
On another level, I confess to experiencing nothing short of thrill when I first read this, as in addition to the myriad other visions I serendipitously share with my hero, here was yet one more, and I extolled, “how long have I been saying this?” Fundamentally, to consider the statement more literally, perhaps closer to some homes and – dare I say – on the surface, one need examine oneself and one’s knee-jerk prejudices. This one dislikes Black people; that one dislikes overweight people; the other one dislikes Muslims; merely because they are easily-identified by outward manifestations. This brand of cataloguing and judgement demonstrates an unutterably appalling amount of intellectual inferiority, as it is vital – and just – to receive individuals with the same judicious eye; for a person is neither inferior nor superior to me – particularly based on an accident of appearance – until he or she has proven him or herself to be by some act or acts, which delineate that individual as a person; which classify him or her.
“Genius watches the monad through all his masks as he performs the metempsychosis of nature. Genius detects through the fly, through the caterpillar, through the grub, through the egg, the constant type of the individual; through countless individuals the fixed species; through many species the genus; through all genera the steadfast type; through all the kingdoms of organised life eternal unity.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, History
In order to appreciate, grasp and embrace distinctiveness, the wider representation must be realised, in the framework of time, existence and worth; not merely by considering the here and now; or present, the apparent unchecked facts or the validity of an individual. The genius can distinguish all origins as well as inexorable progression and evolution, though one need not be labelled a genius to achieve this level of awareness; a so-called lesser organism is regarded as equally beautiful and capable in the eyes of both the recognised genius, and the genius by enlightenment.
The beauty of reality, change and difference – in epochs, figures and individuals – is realised in that the surface may appear unaffected; however, delving beneath the facade will unearth this superb certainty.
PS – TWO DAYS UNTIL THE MID-SEASON PREMIER!