The one thing in the world, of value, is the active soul

leaping child

Springing spontaneous from the mind's own sense of good and fair

Books are the best of things, well used; abused, among the worst. What is the right use? What is the one end, which all means go to effect? They are for nothing but to inspire. I had better never see a book, than to be warped by its attraction clean out of my own orbit, and made a satellite instead of a system. The one thing in the world, of value, is the active soul. This every man is entitled to; this every man contains within him, although, in almost all men, obstructed, and as yet unborn. The soul active sees absolute truth; and utters truth, or creates. In this action, it is genius; not the privilege of here and there a favorite, but the sound estate of every man. In its essence, it is progressive. The book, the college, the school of art, the institution of any kind, stop with some past utterance of genius. This is good, say they, – let us hold by this. They pin me down. They look backward and not forward. But genius looks forward: the eyes of man are set in his forehead, not in his hindhead: man hopes: genius creates. Whatever talents may be, if the man create not, the pure efflux of the Deity is not his; – cinders and smoke there may be, but not yet flame. There are creative manners, there are creative actions, and creative words; manners, actions, words, that is, indicative of no custom or authority, but springing spontaneous from the mind’s own sense of good and fair.

by Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882)
from The American Scholar
An Oration Delivered Before the Phi Beta Kappa Society, at Cambridge, August 31, 1837
image – tibchris

Man Hopes; Genius Creates

This excerpt is from a lecture titled The American Scholar, given by Ralph Waldo Emerson to Harvard’s Phi Beta Kappa Society. Since 1932 The American Scholar has been a quarterly publication of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous speech, the magazine aspires to “Emerson’s ideals of independent thinking, self-knowledge, and a commitment to the affairs of the world as well as to books, history, and science.”

Emerson had a way of calling a spade a spade, Victorian style. I love this: “genius looks forward: the eyes of man are set in his forehead, not in his hindhead.”

That’s one way to tell yourself to buck up and notice the future!

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5 Responses to “The one thing in the world, of value, is the active soul”

  1. Juanita Says:

    Can you imagine having sat in on an Emerson lecture? Wow!

  2. clarissa mcfairy Says:

    “The sound estate of every man”. Love that, makes so much sense, like a fixed star, “fixed” to rhyme with “mix it”, And “the eyes of man are set in his forehead, not his hindhead”. However did I miss the quote snack. As for Emerson, I miss not ever having met him. Though I suppose this is the way we meet him. And he has so much more to say than anyone I have ever “met” that makes sense to me, at so many levels.

  3. clarissa mcfairy Says:

    o my goodness, and look at the image, and the caption. You have done it again, chosen the perfect pictorial illustration for the piece. Bravo!

  4. Diane M. Says:

    Hi, great to see Quote Snack back in action. I look forward to reading the daily quote each day at work – sometimes it feels like the only time all day I really use my brain. Its quite enjoyable! Keep up the good work.

  5. Instantly we know whose words are loaded with life, and whose are not - Ralph Waldo Emerson Says:

    […] is with the scholar subordinate, but it is essential. Without it, he is not yet man.” Action still counts, but how can I begin to say what I think is different today? Think of the revolution […]