Literary Quote of the Day: Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today’s literary quote of the day is from Ralph Waldo Emerson‘s Nature:

Every rational creature has all nature for his dowry and estate. It is his, if he will. He may divest himself of it; he may creep into a corner, and abdicate his kingdom, as most men do, but he is entitled to the world by his constitution.

Share your thoughts on today’s literary quote in the comment section of this post.

Author: michaelvdg

10 Comments

  1. “and abdicate his kingdom, as most men do.”

    I’m not entirely sure what he means. Does he mean those who ignore nature, those who don’t preserve nature,…

  2. And to find that out, I’d say go and read Nature.

    I’m saying this because I’m somewhat of an Emerson fan. Truly: read it and find the answer to your question yourself. You can buy it of course in bookform, but you can also choose to read it online. I encourage you and all others to do so.

    Again, I’m somewhat of a fan.

  3. “When we Indians dig roots, we make little holes. When we build houses, we make little holes. When we burn grass for grasshoppers, we don’t ruin things. We shake down acorns and pinenuts. We don’t chop down the trees. We only use dead wood. But the white people plow up the ground, pull down the trees, kill everything. The tree says,‘Don’t. I am sore. Don’t hurt me.’ But they chop it down and cut it up….How can the spirit of the earth like the white man? Everywhere the white man has touched it, it is sore.â€?
    Wintu woman of California in Touch the Earth ed. T.C. McLuhan. N.Y.: Promontory Press, 1971, p. 15

  4. And now, for those who still don’t see that the very idea that man owns earth is irresponsible, an extreme example that shows the consequences if people take it literally:

    “God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, ‘Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It’s yours.’”

    Ann Coulter, at ‘Hannity & Colmes’, 6/20/01

  5. Gray, I get your good intentions but I don’t see that anything out of Ann Coulter’s mouth is an example of anything but mental illness.

    Emerson seems to be saying that humans own the world, on the same level as any other living being, or at least that’s what it seems from such a short quote.

  6. Gray, you’ve been raiding Shaun’s marijuana stash, I see. :)

    I agree with Lynx, quoting Coulter is not helpful in rational discussion (please, I have also just eaten).

    You’re also romanticizing the Native American population. “When we burn grass for grasshoppers, we don’t ruin things. We shake down acorns and pinenuts. We don’t chop down the trees. We only use dead wood.”

    The Aboriginal population of North America hunted the horse to extinction. The horse disappeared from the Americas with the first appearance of aboriginals, and though Indians have long contested this, horse bones with human teeth marks have been found in ancient camp sites in Canada.

    The Indians also burned huge swathes of the continent. This is, I gather from my partner who is an historian of the American West, a controversial issue too. But there is apparently ample evidence of massive uncontrolled burns made by Indians across the continent long before the White man.

    That idea of Indians as somehow being in tune with the natural world is heavily influenced by the “Noble Savage” mythos that Europe had even before Columbus.

  7. “Emerson seems to be saying that humans own the world, on the same level as any other living being, or at least that’s what it seems from such a short quote.”

    Indeed. And that’s fatally wrong. Humans don’t own the world. And other bening dont di that, too. Period.
    This whole idea of ‘owning’ the earth leads directly to coulterish irresponsibility.

  8. Btw, Lynx, he isn’t speaking about all beings, he explicitly says “Every rational creature”. Except humans, some other primates and maybe dolfins, whales and elefants, this doesn’t include most of the creatures living on earth.
    Hmm, thinking more about it, this excludes irrational Ann Coulter, too. Guess someone should have told her.

  9. I read a much simpler message in these lines:
    Nature makes itself availabe; we can enjoy it or learn from it.
    Those who turn away from it lose out on these gifts.

    I see this as being about the bounty of nature, pure and simple.

  10. I read a little about Emerson on Wiki. The new world was largely still natural and undeveloped compared to Europe. I’m not sure what he means here, but he loved to surround himself by nature in solitude, as he felt close to God.

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