Serviceable sentences, 27/10,000

If, as you say, we are destroying number by affirming the strict infinite, why then I concede that number also is swallowable, & that one of these days we shall eat it like custard.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson, from Journal Z [A] (1842-1843), in Selected Journals 1841-1877 (ed. Lawrence Rosenwald)

(Cf. Of all the numbers swallowed in adherence to the edible Emersonian qabbala, the best digested will be 2, 3, 4 & 5.. [H/t timespiralpress.])


Serviceable sentences, 20/10,000

We are to aim at getting observations without aim, to subject to thought things seen without thought.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson, from Journal B (31 May 1836), in Selected Journals 1841-1877 (ed. Lawrence Rosenwald)

(Cf. Graham Harman: “We know without knowing, and think without thinking, by alluding to a thing rather than reducing it to a model contained within thought.”)


Inside-out vs. outside-in, pt. 2

Emerson is matchless for telepathic reading experiences.* Not the sense that a book, or the human being behind it, is addressing you. Not even that you, and you alone, are directly hailed by it. But the sensation of someone else reading a script that you wrote, controlled by thoughts of yours that never quite became words in your head. (“Unexpected majesty” gets at it better than “alienated majesty.”)

And it happens in such a way that a response from you is no longer required. It is preempted. All you can do is enjoy that realization. Occasionally you can document it.

On January 19th I wrote:

Perhaps the need to write comes not from the subject matter, from its importance working outside-in, but from vanity, from the inside-out.

On January 20th, I read:

The difference between talent & genius is in the direction of the current: in genius, it is from within outward; in talent, from without inward. Talent finds its models & methods & ends in society, and goes to the soul only for power to work: genius is its own end & derives its means and the style of its architecture from within & only goes abroad for audience or spectator, as we adapt our voice & our phrase to the distance & to the character of the ear we speak to.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson, from “Journal E” (1841), Selected Journals 1820-1842 (2010; my emphasis)

While my preoccupation with the theme of inside-out vs. outside-in needs further meditation, this is a start. With telepathic reading, the secrets inside ourselves are out on the paper in front of us, and those of others outside ourselves are interiorized.

*Rarely  has it happened to me outside of Emerson. Once recently: watching Matthew Barney’s River of Fundament. I know Mailer’s Ancient Evenings well, but I was repeatedly unsettled by how closely Barney’s adaptation met my desire for what scene or image should come next. Barney, I learned later, based his film more on Harold Bloom’s review of the book, one of my favorite Bloom essays, than on Mailer’s novel, which is where the shared orientation of our thoughts probably starts.

Emerson on political opinions

On rolls the world and these fugitive colors of political opinion like dove’s neck lustres chase each other over the wide encampments of mankind, whig, tory; pro- & anti-slavery; Catholic, Protestant; the clamor lasts for some time, but the persons who make it, change; the mob remains, the persons who compose it change every moment. The world hears what both parties say & swear, accepts both statements, & takes the line of conduct recommended by neither, but a diagonal line of advance which partakes of both courses.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson, from Journal H, in Selected Journals 1841-1877 (ed. Lawrence Rosenwald)

Reality is more robust than your politics (even when all of you are taken in aggregate).

On inside-out vs. outside-in, pt. 1

Three quotes to remind one of how far Emerson’s self-reliance diverges from his contemporaries. Here the contemporaries are Mormonism & Darwinism: the former’s scriptural justification of calling and ordination to the priesthood; and Outsideness‘s summary of the latter. All three continue shaping the present—”we reason about them with a later reason”—so why not juxtapose them? (The variations between them are more complex, I know, but taking similar phrases out of context pleasantly intensifies the contrast.)

Ne te quaesiveris extra. [Look to no one outside yourself.]
—Persius, Satire I, 7; qtd. by Ralph Waldo Emerson as an epigraph for “Self-Reliance” (1841)

And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.
—Hebrews 5:4

… The general point (Darwin’s big idea), is that no organism gets to vote on what counts as ‘fit’ [for itself]. From that, everything follows.
— Outsideness (@Outsideness) December 7, 2016

(My emphasis.)
(*As sexual selection complicates things, I have amended Outsideness’s sentence with a reflexive pronoun to complement the other two.)