Ralph Waldo Emerson: Wine Quote

Today’s words are courtesy of mid-19th century lecturer, essayist, and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Emerson was the father of the American philosophical-literary movement called Transcendentalism.  There are people who have devoted their lives to the study of Transcendentalism, and its impact on American literature and thought, but I will not be one of them.  I looked all over the place for a clear, concise, and satisfying explanation of Trancendentalism, but I don’t think it exists.  What does exist (across the Interweb) are explanations like this one, from the Washington State University:

For the transcendentalists, the soul of each individual is identical with the soul of the world and contains what the world contains.

What the ever-loving what??   What does that even mean???  My head is pounding.  This is why I took exactly one philosophy class in college.  I always wanted to stand up, during the middle of class, and scream, THISISSOEFFINGBORING!!  But I thought that might be rude, so I didn’t.  But I wanted to.

As I (barely) understand it, Transcendentalism has its roots in German philosophy, specifically with the writings of Immanuel Kant.  Transcendental thought centers on the individual, some flavor of idealism, and Nature (big N for some, unknown reason) as transcending reality. Honestly, I still have no idea what that means.

Sidebar:  Edgar Allen Poe was a huge critic of Transcendentalists.  He called them Frogpondians, after a pond in Boston Common that Poe apparently associated with all things messed-up in the world.  My goal for the rest of the week is to weave Frogpondian into a casual conversation.

Emerson wrote a whole pile of essays using Transcendentalist theory.  But Emerson was also a huge fan of Persian poetry, and wrote a whole pile of essays about that, too.  Emerson translated some 700 lines of Persian poetry from a 13th century poet named, Hafez (well, technically, Emerson translated a German translation).  Today’s words come from one of those poems, From the Persian of Hafiz:


Poetry is such a tease.  I got all excited when I read those words (weather-stains of cares is pretty terrific stuff), so I tried to read the poem in its entirety.  Mistake.  Big mistake.  Huge.  I couldn’t get through it.  It’s absolute mind torture.  But I’ll bet somewhere, there’s a tortured soul, sitting in the back of a dark and smoky lounge on open-mic poetry night, who just eats this stuff up.

My translation:  As long as we have wine, everything will be fine.  (See?  I can write poetry, too. Rhyming, even.  😉)


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