Ralph Waldo Emerson tagged posts

The Puffed Up Self in Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”

“Our Delight in Destruction,” read the headline from a recent philosophy blog in the New York Times. (Yes, actual philosophers blogging in readable English in a daily newspaper—hope lives!)

This was just a day after I had come across and held to my eyes a treasured volume, “Irrational Man,” a 1960s-era study of the great existential philosophers who detailed the human penchant for, well, not always behaving in the optimal fashion to promote our own best interests (nor the well-being of those around us).

And through both those works, a long chew through Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance,” a far-reaching, soul-stirring anthem celebrating, no matter how “destructive” or “irrational” it might appear to those other thinkers mentioned above, the absolute primacy of the Self, the lone self-reflective individual, our own deepest heart of hearts, for whom the Bard of Concord intoned:

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Rereading “Walden,” Forty Years Later, on My Kindle

“Simplify,” Henry David Thoreau tells us in Walden. I am reading this advice in the airport, awaiting a jet plane excursion, just moments after downloading a 464-page collection of his works onto my Kindle, delivered courtesy of the airport wi-fi via Amazon’s “Whispernet” technology in a matter of seconds. Currently, I have Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Arnold’s Culture and Belief, Homer’s The Odyssey, Aristotle’s Poetics, and the entire New Oxford American Dictionary packed onto my Kindle, too. And this mini-library has barely begun to crack the device’s capacity.

I’m lugging these hundreds of thousands of digitized words onto a plane in a 10-ounce electronic device that I easily cradle in the palm of my hand, wondering if this technology, in its own way, falls neatly within Thoreau’s “Simplify” dictum. Or is it a gross perversion?

This is not the only conundrum I will face rereadin...

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