Thursday, August 26, 2010

The American Scholar and Contemporary Society Part 3

The American Scholar having established a mind for understanding the simple natural way, can now understand works of the Past that speak to this simple and natural way. The American Scholar can begin to research and compile the great works of the Past that speak to our humanity through the natural way, the simple life. The scholar with a mind for the Past can search through the vast human legacy for the works that resonate with the furthering of human happiness. This is of course is what makes scholarship scholarship. Sifting through works of the past, studying that which speaks to our humanity and creating works that will speak to the simple, natural way of the future. The responsibility of the American Scholar to the Past is to further the lineage of the human legacy thus opening the way for humanity in the future. Past Scholars made it their life's work to create works that can transcend the ages and speak to what is simple, natural and most human within us. We have a responsibility to these great minds of the past. Emerson's American Scholar must continue this heritage. As the American Scholar studies and compiles the transcendent works of the past he taps a vast resource for serving humanity in his very age and into the future. To establish a mind for the beautiful and transcendent works of the past is to establish a mind for that which is beautiful and transcendent in humanity through all the ages. As the Scholar increases his ability to resonate with the great works of the past, sifting and sorting through the vast works of humanity, he too increases his ability to seek and discover what is most promising in his own age. As the American Scholar sifts through the ages seeking works befitting the human legacy, he becomes adept at seeking that which is befitting the human legacy in all eras. Soon an ability to discover that which is highest in the individuals in his immediate social nexus is developed. The scholar studies the past so that he may cultivate the ability to study the present. The scholar studies that which is best and highest in the past so that he may cultivate the ability to study that which is highest in the present. The Scholar studies that which is best and highest in each individual work of the past so that he may cultivate the ability to study that which is highest in each individual person in the present.
Thus the American Scholar comes to his highest achievement. He/she becomes practical. Such a scholar is to be able to recognize and cultivate that which is best in one's own present experience. This is to become a scholar of life, Man Thinking. The cultivation of these abilities to resonate with the transcendent in the past, and in nature is practice to become able to resonate with the transcendent in one's present life. To become a practical scholar is to cultivate the ability to see that which is best in humanity in the midst of all that is not. The Scholar practices seeing nature in order to become able to understand that which is transcendent. The Scholar practices seeing that which is transcendent in the past in order to see that which is most beautiful in the present. Now that the scholar has cultivated the ability to recognize the best and most beautiful in nature and in the past it becomes his duty and his joy to nourish only that which is most beautiful in his current practical experience, in his everyday relations, and in his original work. The scholar becomes more and more able to understand present beauty and speak to it. Thus the scholar may become a teacher as he sees, speaks to and sincerely loves the infinite within his student. This is that most difficult and most important task entrusted to us as Rilke described it in his letters to a young poet:
…For one human being to truly love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation. (Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet. p. )

While Rilke speaks of romantic love, he speaks of the highest love for the infinite within humanity. In regards to this a love for the highest in Nature is relatively easy. A love of past words can be readily nurtured. But a love for humanity, through its sometimes-thick ignorance, a love that penetrates into the infinite within each being, this is Rilke's ultimate task. This is infinitely practical, this is infinitely present. This is the work of humankind. To transcend all the possible fears, greed, and annoyances in order to "love humanity" as Confucius said. This is "God is Love" of Jesus, "compassion" of Buddha, as well as the liberation described in the many other mystic traditions. This is the liberation from all of one's own shortcomings as we become able to cultivate that which is best in our present experience and to truly love humanity. Loving nature and loving the works of the past are just practices so that we may love the present.
Resonating with the infinite present as represented on p. 33 of Emerson's "American Scholar," as it is manifest in Nature is a responsibility of the American Scholar:
The scholar is he of all men whom this spectacle most engages. He must settle its value in his mind. What is nature to him? There is never a beginning; there is never an end, to the inexplicable continuity of this web of God, but always circular power returning to itself. Therein it resembles his own spirit, whose beginning, his ending, he can never find-so entire so boundless. (Emerson, p. 33)

To seek to understand the most infinite and the most boundless in the most concrete, closest experience is the role of the scholar. To gradually gain a sense of this in the immediate and practical world is his/her ultimate responsibility. Then to gradually become and embody this vast experience in the realm of every day affairs is his/her duty. For anyone who has come into direct contact with a truly accomplished scholar, in this sense, that contact is contact with a human being who feels boundless and timeless. Perhaps the unnamed fourth section of Emerson's "American Scholar" is the illumination of the scholar's duties. Having gradually cultivated a sense of the boundless in the outside world, or Nature, having cultivated the same sense in the world of the Past, in his everyday social interactions, or Humanity, and in his/her self the scholar must seek to fulfill his/her duties:
He is to find consolation in the exercising the highest functions of human nature. He is the one who raises himself from private considerations and breathes and lives on public and illustrious thoughts. He is the world's eye. He is the world's heart. (Emerson p,41)

Emerson continues to say that these being the scholar's duties he/she should feel all the confidence in his/her self. The scholar should not feel the burden swayed by "some popular cry" or some "fetish of government". "He and he alone knows the world," Emerson explains. Because the true scholar resonates with the figurative Iraqi songbird within the outside world, past works, his fellow beings and most significantly his/her self the scholar stands beyond the finite. For as Emerson puts it:
The scholar is that man who must take up into himself all the ability of the time, all the contributions of the past, all the hopes of the future…The world is nothing, the man is all; in yourself is the law of all nature, and you know not yet how a globule of sap ascends in yourself the whole of Reason; it is for you to know all; it is for you to dare all.

For although the true scholar stands beyond the finite, it is for him to dare all, to dare to act with confidence for the sake of the highest good. This knowledge of that which transcends all is for the scholar to act practically injecting this timeless presence into the current day. The duty of the scholar is to continue his/her work as an island for the able amidst the ocean of the deluded:
…As thousands of young men as hopeful (inflated by mountain winds, shined upon by the stars of God) now crowding to the barriers for the career do not yet see, that if the single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts, and there abide, the huge world will come round to him. Patience-patience; with the shades of all the good and great for company; and for solace the perspective of your own infinite life; and for work the study and communication of principles, the making those instincts prevalent, the conversion of the world.

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