Ralph Waldo Emerson is a name we often hear for the first time in high school literature classes, but his words and ideas have been shaping us for centuries.
He wasn’t one of the USA’s founding fathers, but he was nevertheless a voice which shaped this country’s burgeoning mind.
Many of his ideas and quotes resonate strongly with readers today.
And I often find myself wondering, was it that he tapped into something eternal? Or was it just because of how profoundly he shaped philosophy, literature and the American spirit, that we can no more escape this resonance than we could escape our genes?
After all, those of us in the US have grown up in a culture he helped to create.
May 25th is both Memorial Day and Emerson’s birthday, and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than sharing one of his poems:
“To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of the intelligent people
and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to leave the world a bit better
whether by a healthy child, a garden patch,
or a redeemed social condition;
to know that one life has breathed easier
because you lived here.
This is to have succeeded.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Emerson helped solidify the concepts of self-reliance, individuality, and the almost spiritual love of nature that many Americans hold so dear.
What a legacy to leave behind!
Author: Kathryn Muyskens
Editor: Renee Jahnke
Photo: Wiki Commons