Conduct of Life
Ralph Waldo Emerson

  

The one serious and formidable thing in nature is a will.  Society is servile from want of will, and therefore the world wants saviours and religions.  One way is right to go:  the heroes see it, and moves on that aim, and has the world under them for root and support.  They are to others as the world.  Their approbation is honor; their dissent, infamy.  The glance of their eye has the force of sunbeams.  A personal influence towers up in memory only worthy, and we gladly forget numbers, money, climate, gravitation, and the rest of Fate.

We can afford to allow the limitation, if we know it is the meter of the growing person.  We stand against Fate, as children stand up against the wall in their parents' house, and notch their height from year to year.  But when the child grows to adult, and is master of the house, he or she pulls down that wall, and builds a new and bigger.  'Tis only a question of time.  Every brave youth is in training to ride and rule this dragon.  Their science is to make weapons and wings of these passions and retarding forces.

Now whether, seeing these two things, fate and power, we are permitted to believe in unity?  The bulk of humankind believe in two gods.  They are under one dominion here in the house, as friend and parent, in social circles, in letters, in art, in love, in religion:  but in mechanics, in dealing with steam and climate, in trade, in politics, they think they come under another; and that it would be a practical blunder to transfer the method and way of working of one sphere, into the other.  

What good, honest, generous people at home, will be wolves and foxes on change!  What pious men and women in the parlor will vote for what reprobates at the polls!  To a certain point, they believe themselves the care of a Providence.  But, in a steamboat, in an epidemic, in war, they believe a malignant energy rules.

But relation and connection are not somewhere and sometimes, but everywhere and always.  The divine order does not stop where their sight stops.  The friendly power works on the same rules, in the next farm, and the next planet. But, where they have not experience, they run against it, and hurt themselves. Fate, then, is a name for facts not yet passed under the fire of thought; for causes which are unpenetrated.

But every jet of chaos which threatens to exterminate us, is convertible by intellect into wholesome force.  Fate is unpenetrated causes.  The water drowns ship and sailor, like a grain of dust.  But learn to swim, trim your bark, and the wave which drowned it, will be cloven by it, and carry it, like its own foam, a plume and a power.  The cold is inconsiderate of persons, tingles your blood, freezes a person like a dew-drop.  But learn to skate, and the ice will give you a graceful, sweet, and poetic motion.  The cold will brace your limbs and brain to genius, and make you foremost people of time.  Cold and sea will train an imperial Saxon race, which nature cannot bear to lose, and, after cooping it up for a thousand years in yonder England, gives a hundred Englands, a hundred Mexicos.  All the bloods it shall absorb and domineer:  and more than Mexicos, the secrets of water and steam, the spasms of electricity, the ductility of metals, the chariot of the air, the ruddered balloon are awaiting you.

The annual slaughter from typhus far exceeds that of war; but right drainage destroys typhus.  The plague in the sea-service from scurvy is healed by lemon juice and other diets portable or procurable:  the depopulation by cholera and small-pox is ended by drainage and vaccination; and every other pest is not less in the chain of cause and effect, and may be fought off.  And, whilst art draws out the venom, it commonly extorts some benefit from the vanquished enemy.  The mischievous torrent is taught to drudge for people:  the wild beasts they make useful for food, or dress, or labor; the chemic explosions are controlled like their watches.  These are now the steeds on which they ride.  People move in all modes, by legs of horses, by wings of wind, by steam, by gas of balloon, by electricity, and stand on tiptoe threatening to hunt the eagle in its own element.  There's nothing they will not make their carrier.

Steam was, till the other day, the devil which we dreaded.  Every pot made by any human potter or brazier had a hole in its cover, to let off the enemy, lest it should lift pot and roof, and carry the house away.  But the Marquis of Worcester, Watt, and Fulton bethought themselves, that, where was power, was not devil, but was God; that it must be availed of, and not by any means let off and wasted.  Could he lift pots and roofs and houses so handily?  He was the workman they were in search of.  He could be used to lift away, chain, and compel other devils, far more reluctant and dangerous, namely, cubic miles of earth, mountains, weight or resistance of water, machinery, and the labors of all people in the world; and time he shall lengthen, and shorten space.

It has not fared much otherwise with higher kinds of steam.  The opinion of the million was the terror of the world, and it was attempted, either to dissipate it, by amusing nations, or to pile it over with strata of society, a layer of soldiers; over that, a layer of lords; and a king on the top; with clamps and hoops of castles, garrisons, and police.  But, sometimes, the religious principle would get in, and burst the hoops, and rive every mountain laid on top of it.  The Fultons and Watts of politics, believing in unity, saw that it was a power, and, by satisfying it, (as justice satisfies everybody,) through a different disposition of society, grouping it on a level, instead of piling it into a mountain, they have contrived to make of his terror the most harmless and energetic form of a State.

  
   

It does not matter what name you attach to it, but your consciousness
must ascend to the point through which you view the universe with
your God-centered nature.  The feeling accompanying this experience
is that of complete oneness with the Universal Whole.  One merges
into a euphoria of absolute unity with all life.

Peace Pilgrim

  


  
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