Oh what a wonderful coincidence.
I rather recently started reading a collection of RWE's Selected Writings and am enjoying them quite a bit. I just happened upon this form today (as I was looking for a forum on Montaigne) and couldn't help but want to toss some comments in here.
Nature is a fantastic read, he captures sentiment I've long felt, but had no words. He reverences all things Nature (and this comes out in virtually all he writes). I marked several passages I thought were significant and thought I'd share them. As I've lately come to abhor petty squabbling and negativity, I'm only sharing what I really liked
in "Nature". Some of it I patently disagreed with, some I nodded passively and other parts were flat-out hilarious. So here's some of the most positive sentiments I found in the essay:[INDENT] "Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection
" Chap 1[INDENT]This is a rather deep-feeling thought; as if to hold something in such high station that one might know
they'd lose that sense of wonder to dissect and learn its secrets. He communicates this well - and no, I don't agree that disenchantment necessarily follows our investigations. But its nicely expressed
[/INDENT]"The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them. The waving of the boughs in the storm, is new to me and old. It takes me by surprise, and yet is not unknown. Its effect is like that of a higher thought or a better emotion coming over me, when I deemed I was thinking justly or doing right
". Chap 1[INDENT]This one blew me out of the water; I've felt this a thousand times and not yet have I seen the intimated essence
of this emotion expressed. Nope, I can't explain it; except perhaps to say that this "nodding" speaks to perhaps an ingrained understanding - not quite conscious - of this community of life of which we're just one part; that perhaps we can take solace and comfort in that knowledge (e.g., My Brother, the Pumpkin!)
[/INDENT]"The wise man shows his wisdom in separation, in gradation, as his scale of creatures and of merits is as wide as nature. The foolish have no range in their scale, but suppose every man is as every other man. What is not good they call the worst, and what is not hateful, they call the best"
Chap 5 (Discipline)[INDENT] This is superbly phrased and speaks to me personally as I've come to recognize the widespread and long-lasting detriments caused by two-dimensional thinkers (i.e., "It is white or it is black-there is no grey"). When something is "good", that's not to say there is no 'bad' or undesirable part of it; no thing is of the utmost, through-and-through purity. Life exists in degrees of gradients for our moral judgments, beauty, depth, meanness, happiness, perceptions and on to infinity. It is the lack of recognizing this complexity - this gradation - that leads to snap judgments, friction, conflict and pain. I think he did great in his description.
[/INDENT]In Chap 6, "Idealism" he pontificates a bit on the true philosopher and true poet, elucidating their unique ability to see "truth" and express it with honesty, saying, "... in both cases, that a spiritual life has been imparted to nature; that the solid seeming block of matter has been pervaded and dissolved by a thought; that this feeble human being has penetrated the vast masses of nature with an informing soul, and recognized itself in their harmony.
"[INDENT]Brilliant phrasing; the intonation given by his analogy of the surrounding world (being the 'block of matter') being penetrated by the describing, praising or philosophizing mind. What an excellently-illustrative way of describing the poet's and philosopher's process.
[/INDENT]"Yet this may show us what discord is between man and nature, for you cannot freely admire a noble landscape, if laborers are diffing in the field hard by. The poet finds something ridiculous in his delight, until he is out of the sign of men
", Chap 7, "Spirit"[INDENT]How true is this? Whether by socialization (that visually caressing a scene is somehow overtly-effeminate) or by some ingrained desire to admire the natural in our own private thoughts, I find this to be particularly true.
[/INDENT]And lastly... "Empirical science is apt to cloud the sight, and, by the very knowledge of functions and processes, to bereave the student of the manly contemplation of the whole... [it] is arrived at by untaught sallies of the spirit, by a continual self-recovery, and by entire humility
" Chap VIII, Prospects[INDENT]If you spend any time with RWE, you'll find that he's very big on the revealing nature of Intuition
. That through it truth can be found (and not dissected) and so on. I found in this passage the intuitive inspiration to be wonderfully described as an "untaught sally" of the spirit. Very nice letters
[/INDENT][/INDENT]There's much more, but these struck me as particularly worth sharing.