Ralph Waldo Emerson celebrated, through his life and writing, the beauty of nature, goodness of human beings and importance of optimism even though he experienced significant hardships throughout his life. John O’Leary shares how the experience of the father of transcendentalism parallels with our own and why that matters.
“We see things not as they are, but as we are.” – Immanuel Kant
The above is one of my favorite quotes and comes from a poet who wrote eloquently and extensively on living a more meaningful, impactful and worthwhile life regardless of the challenges around us. With all the challenges we face as individuals and as a society, I thought today might be a good day not only to send our own children back to school, but for us to get a refresher on what remains possible in our lives, too.
You probably were forced to read Ralph Waldo Emerson in high school English class. You might even have vague memories of learning about the transcendentalist movement. And you maybe you could even name a few of Emerson’s essays and books.
It’s important to note that although transcendentalism celebrates the beauty of nature, the goodness of human beings and embraces a passionately optimistic view of life, the individual who began the movement, Ralph Waldo Emerson, dealt with significant challenges throughout his life.
At just eight years old, little Ralph experienced the profound pain of losing his father. To help the family endure financial strains, he accepted many odd, difficult jobs to pay his way through school. Just two years after getting married and beginning their life together, his wife passed away. Not long after, he experienced the pain of his family home burning to the ground. And in his early 50’s, the writer, orator and poet began suffering from aphasia and lost the ability to use words. He eventually forgot his own name.
As he experienced these immense struggles, he would rely on some beautiful words and instructions he wrote while on top of the world, and required when he felt buried by it.
Before passing away, he penned some of the most beautiful words:
“Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.
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, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.
This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.”
With all the tension around us, all the negativity in the marketplace, all the divisiveness politically and culturally, and all the headwinds of challenge blowing toward us, Emerson’s words are more needed now than when he first wrote them.
My friends, even in the midst of a difficult 2020, with recessionary winds blowing, politicians stumping, COVID-19 spreading and challenges mounting, it’s critical we accept that:
Every day can be the best day of the year.
We can let go of personal fret and anxiety.
We must learn from personal blunders and shouldn’t surrender to mistakes.
Tomorrow is far too great a gift to waste.
Don’t be stuck in the difficulties of your yesterdays.
How do you live this?
Put down the paper. Turn off the cable news. Step away from social media. Observe the beauty of nature. Embrace the gift of your life.
While it’s true life is hard, it’s also good, the foundation is firm, you are not alone and the best is yet to come.
This today is your day. Live Inspired.