Ralph Waldo Emerson

Easily the most quoted American of all time, Ralph Waldo Emerson was a source of inspiration,
motivation, and love of life.  His words of encouragement, of recognition of the beauty and potential
in every human being, teach us that life is a beautiful experience, and we are all beautiful beings, and
we all should treat ourselves that way--with respect and dignity and love.  Life is for living, says Emerson,
and all that surrounds us is there to be appreciated and loved.  Only if we do so shall we find happiness in life.

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We include the following passage only because
it's been so often attributed to Emerson,
and we realize that many people will be looking
for it on this page.  For more information about
its true origins, though, see our life page.

To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest criticism
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty and find the best in others;
to leave this world a bit better whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch, a redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived--
this is to have succeeded.

   

People's actions are the picture book of their creeds.
  
  
The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to us when we discover that someone else believes in us and is willing to trust us with their friendship.

      
To fill the hour,--that is happiness; to fill the hour, and leave no crevice for a repentance or an approval. . . . To finish the moment, to find the journey's end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom. . . . Since our office is with moments, let us husband them.  Five minutes of to-day are worth as much to me, as five minutes in the next millennium.  Let us be poised, and wise, and our own, to-day.  Let us treat the men and women well:  treat them as if they were real: perhaps they are.


We take care of our health, we lay up money, we make our room tight, and our clothing sufficient; but who provides wisely that he or she shall not be wanting in the best property of all--friends?
  
The death of a dear friend, wife, brother, lover, which seemed nothing but privation, somewhat later assumes the aspect of a guide or genius; for it commonly operates revolutions in our way of life, terminates an epoch of infancy or of youth which was waiting to be closed, breaks up a wonted occupation, or a household, or style of living, and allows the formation of new ones more friendly to the growth of character.
   

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God's handwriting -- a wayside sacrament.  Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.

 

The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil.

 

 

Life is full of surprises, and would not be worth taking or keeping if it were not.

 

Finish every day and be done with it.  You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.  This day is all that is good and fair.
It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays.

 

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Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one's own sunshine.
   

The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.

   
  

The happiest person is the one who learns from nature the lesson of worship.

  

People are timid and apologetic; they are no longer upright;
they dare not say "I think," "I am," but quote some sage or saint.
They are ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose.
These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to
better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day.

 

 
What I do is all that concerns me, not what the people think.  This rule,
equally arduous in actual and intellectual life, may serve for the whole
distinction between greatness and meanness.  It is the harder, because
you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better
than you know it.  It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion;
it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great person is the one who
in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
   

Wherever snow falls, or water flows, or birds fly, wherever day and night meet in twilight,
wherever the blue heaven is hung by clouds, or sown with stars, wherever are forms
with transparent boundaries, wherever are outlets into celestial space,
wherever is danger, and awe, and love, there is Beauty, plenteous as rain, shed for thee,
and though thou shouldest walk the world over,
thou shalt not be able to find a condition inopportune or ignoble.

 

 

I am thankful for small mercies.  I compared notes with one of my friends
who expects everything of the universe, and is disappointed
when anything is less than the best, and I found that I begin
at the other extreme, expecting nothing,
and am always full of thanks for moderate goods.

 
Let me admonish you, first of all, to go alone; to refuse the good models, even those most sacred in the imagination of humans, and dare to love God without mediator or veil.  Friends enough you shall find who will hold up to your emulation Wesleys and Oberlins, Saints and Prophets.  Thank God for these good people, but say, "I also am a human being."  Imitation cannot go above its model.  The imitator dooms him or herself to hopeless mediocrity.  The inventors did it, because it was natural to them, and so in them it has a charm.  In the imitators, something else is natural, and they bereave themselves of their own beauty, to come short of another person's.
 
Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone
to tell you that you are wrong.  There are always difficulties
arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right.
To map out a course of action and follow it
to an end requires. . . courage.
 

I like to have a person's knowledge comprehend
more than one class of topics, one row of shelves.
I like a person who likes to see a fine barn
as well as a good tragedy.

 

  
All our progress is an unfolding, like a vegetable bud.
You have first an instinct, then an opinion, then a
knowledge as the plant has root, bud, and fruit.
Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.
  

As we grow old,
the beauty steals inward.

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.

  

It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life,
that no person can sincerely try to help another
without helping him or herself.

  
   
Wisdom is like electricity.  There is no permanently wise person,
but people capable of wisdom, who, being put into certain company,
or other favorable conditions, become wise for a short time,
as glasses rubbed acquire electric power for a while.
  

Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself.
Go forward and make your dreams come true.

  

To help the young soul, to inspire hope and blow the coals
into a useful flame, is the work of living, divine person.

Wise people put their trust in ideas and perhaps not in circumstances.

Imagination is not a talent of some people
but is in the health of every person.

Many are the prisoners of ideas.

Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is for you.

To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven.

Hold your peace and do not pollute the morning.

Respect the child. Trespass not on his solitude.

   

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