Nature And Selected Essays
Larzer Ziff's introduction to this collection of fifteen of Emerson's most significant writings provides the important backdrop to the society in which Emerson lived during his formative years.
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He writes that people are distracted by the demands of the world, whereas nature gives but humans fail to reciprocate.
The essay consists of eight sections: Nature, Commodity, Beauty, Language, Discipline, Idealism, Spirit and Prospects.
Within the essay, Emerson divides nature into four usages: Commodity, Beauty, Language and Discipline.Emerson believed that solitude is the single mechanism through which we can be fully engaged in the world of nature, writing "To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society.I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me.All the parts incessantly work into each other's hands for the profit of man. Emerson believed in re-imagining the divine as something large and visible, which he referred to as nature; such an idea is known as transcendentalism, in which one perceives a new God and a new body, and becomes one with his or her surroundings.The wind sows the seed; the sun evaporates the sea; the wind blows the vapor to the field; the ice, on the other side of the planet, condenses rain on this; the rain feeds the plant; the plant feeds the animal; and thus the endless circulations of the divine charity nourish man." Emerson defines a spiritual relationship. Emerson confidently exemplifies transcendentalism, stating, "From the earth, as a shore, I look out into that silent sea.Emerson's address to the Phi Beta Kappa society of Harvard (1837) and another address to the graduating class of the Harvard Divinity School (1838) applied his doctrine to the scholar and the clergyman, provoking sharp controversy. His mandate, which called for harmony with, rather than domestication of, nature, and for a reliance on individual integrity, rather than on materialistic institutions, is echoed in many of the great American philosophical and literary works of his time and ours, and has given an impetus to modern political and social activism. An ardent abolitionist, Emerson lectured and wrote widely against slavery from the 1840's through the Civil War. Larzer Ziff's introduction to this collection of fifteen of Emerson's most significant writings provides the important backdrop to the society in which Emerson lived during his formative years. Each section takes a different perspective on the relationship between humans and nature.In the essay Emerson explains that to experience the wholeness with nature for which we are naturally suited, we must be separate from the flaws and distractions imposed on us by society.But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars." When a person experiences true solitude, in nature, it "take[s] him away".Society, he says, destroys wholeness, whereas "Nature, in its ministry to man, is not only the material, but is also the process and the result. For you is the phenomenon perfect." Emerson uses spirituality as a major theme in the essay.