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. 😉)