I am not normally a huge fan of non-fiction, but lately my friends and I wanted to tackle reading a few essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I decided to read his book called Nature which is composed of multiple essays he wrote which all pertain to the same idea, and helped contribute to the creation of Transcendentalism.
We choose to read this book of essays because Emerson is a classic author, a huge influence on modern thinking and philosophy, and someone who I believe is well worth studying. While I can’t say these essays were always “fun” to read, I can say if you are looking to do some self reflection, or want to understand transcendentalism or universalism I do suggest reading Ralph Waldo Emerson’s works. I learned so much from reading the full book of essays, and its helped me reflect on my actions and the way I interact with society and my friends.
In this article I will briefly summarize the first essay called Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson. This work clearly outlines what the rest of the essays are about. This article helps summarize a pretty complicated piece of literature, but I do suggest you read it yourself for a more in depth understanding! Another interesting thing my friends and I noticed is that we each got different things out of each essay. We really enjoyed meeting up and talking about all aspects-both positive and negative-about Ralph Waldo Emerson and his work.
A Bit Of History
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American lecturer, poet, and philosopher during the 19th century. He is most known for his series of essays and poems that started transcendentalism. Transcendentalism is a philosophical movement that was highly influenced by Platonism and Kantian philosophy and German/ English romanticism. The leaders of these movements believed that a new era was coming, and they highly critiqued current day society for being conformists and not unique individuals. They also believed that god is present in nature and humanity can see god through experiencing a true life.
Emerson was heavily influenced by his Aunt. His Aunt by all accounts was an extremely intelligent and well read woman. She had radical ideas for her time, which helped shape Emerson’s own thoughts and theories. The two were close and Emerson is quoted saying she was a “blessing which nothing else in education could supply”.
Ralph Waldo Emerson himself actually was an ordained minister for the Unitarian church. He had personal reason for leaving the church after the death of his wife, but when she passed he ended up studying at Harvard. It was after attending Harvard university that he discovered his literary love and started to write. He ended up developing a career by being a lecturer, essayist, and poet.
What Is The Main Point Of Nature By Emerson?
In Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson, he wants to solve a problem: humans not appreciating the nature around them.
Nature, in its ministry to man, is not only the material, but is also the process and the result. All the parts incessantly work into each other’s hands for the profit of man. 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.
To be able to experience nature, you need to be in tune with your self. You need to know yourself and your flaws, and not be held down by societies’ ideals. Ralph Waldo Emerson believed that nature, humanity, and god are connected. Nature exists to allow humans insight into the laws of the universe, which in turn allows us to get closer to god. In other words, Nature allows us to view God’s soul which will allow us to understand his universe better.
The aspect of nature is devout. Like the figure of Jesus, she stands with bended head, and hands folded upon the breast. The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship.
In order to find and understand nature, you need to have your own solitude. Finding nature is akin to finding yourself; how can you see god’s spirit if you can’t connect to your own?
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. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars.
By finding solidarity you are able to push aside all the conformity you did to blend into society and be able to see nature as you were intended too.
Nature By Ralph Waldo Emerson Summary
To summarize the gist of this essay, Ralph Waldo Emerson explained that humanity is ignoring nature and god. To get back to your roots, you need nature and to throw away societies expectations. Spend some time with yourself and understand yourself. Once you can do that, you can experience solitude and understand nature.
Be sure to check out Emerson’s work for yourself! Even if you are not religious this essay is full of tons and tons of insight into how Emerson is viewing society, nature, and humanity. Religion aside, Nature has key points and ideas inside. It really points out some issues and key transformative ideas that are still relevant to this day. Enjoy!