Essay Iv Spiritual Laws*part 2* Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)
The effect of any writing on the public mind is mathematicallymeasurable by its depth of thought. The way to speak and write what shall notgo out of fashion is, to speak and write sincerely. In like manner the effect of every action is measured by the depth ofthe sentiment from which it proceeds. The great man knew not that he was great.What he did, he did because he must; it was the most natural thing in theworld, and grew out of the circumstances of the moment. These are the demonstrations in a few particulars of the genius ofnature; they show the direction of the stream. The laws of disease, physicianssay, are as beautiful as the laws of health. Our philosophy is affirmative, andreadily accepts the testimony of negative facts, as every shadow points to thesun. The most fugitive deed and word, the mere air of doing a thing, theintimated purpose, expresses character. Truth tyrannizes over the unwillingmembers of the body. When a man speaks the truth in the spirit of truth, hiseye is as clear as the heavens. The world is full of judgment-days, and intoevery assembly that a man enters, in every action he attempts, he is gauged andstamped. The high, the generous, the self-devoted sect will always instruct andcommand mankind. There is confession in the glances of our eyes; in our smiles;in salutations; and the grasp of hands. His vice glasses his eye, cuts lines ofmean expression in his cheek, pinches the nose, sets the mark of the beast onthe back of the head, and writes O fool! fool! on the forehead of a king. Oneknows it, ? himself, ? and is pledged by it to sweetness of peace, and tonobleness of aim, which will prove in the end a better proclamation of it thanthe relating of the incident. Virtue is the adherence in action to the natureof things, and the nature of things makes it prevalent. The lesson which these observations convey is, Be, and not seem. Let ustake our bloated nothingness out of the path of the divine circuits. Let usunlearn our wisdom of the world. Shine with real light, and not with theborrowed reflection of gifts. We are full of these superstitions of sense, the worship of magnitude. Ihold it more just to love the world of this hour, than the world of his hour. Heavenis large, and affords space for all modes of love and fortitude. Why should webe busybodies and superserviceable? Action and inaction are alike to the true. Onepiece of the tree is cut for a weathercock, and one for the sleeper of abridge; the virtue of the wood is apparent in both. I desire not to disgrace the soul. We know that the ancestor of everyaction is a thought. The rich mind lies in the sun and sleeps, and is Nature. Tothink is to act. All action is of an infinite elasticity, and the least admitsof being inflated with the celestial air until it eclipses the sun and moon. Itis peeping. I can think of nothing to fill my time with, and I find the Life ofBrant. This over-estimate of the possibilities of Paul and Pericles, thisunder-estimate of our own, comes from a neglect of the fact of an identicalnature. Bonaparte knew but one merit, and rewarded in one and the same way thegood soldier, the good astronomer, the good poet, the good player. The poetuses the names of Caesar, of Tamerlane, of Bonduca, of Belisarius; the painteruses the conventional story of the Virgin Mary, of Paul, of Peter. Let a manbelieve in God, and not in names and places and persons. We are the photometers, we the irritable goldleaf and tinfoil thatmeasure the accumulations of the subtle element.