On Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Nature

this might get too personal, be prepared. i’m not a scholar, so these are just my personal thoughts.

Chapter 8: Prospects

It seems to me that he’s trying to tell us that we try to understand nature by using science and logic. As a biology major, I frequently ask myself why my teachers tell me “study this so that you’ll understand nature.”, and I’m all “WHAT”. I mean, we can’t understand nature just by counting how many leaves are there in a tree, or knowing how many chambers there are in a shark’s heart. In order to understand nature, we have to immerse ourselves in it, we have to be IN it. One doesn’t look at a mountain and says “Look, that’s a Plagiochila aspleniodes over there!”. Instead of seeing things individually, we should see it as a whole; something that’s unified with its other aspects. We may not know what the name of a certain  species is, but it’s more important to know what its essence is.

There is more to life than what our math and physics books could offer.  What’s happening nowadays is, in order to know or be knowledgeable about something, we focus on the finite, the empirical facts that we can draw from it. There is nothing left for the subjective. “… the highest reason is always the truest. That which seems faintly possible — it is so refined, is often faint and dim because it is deepest seated in the mind among the eternal verities.”. But then again, what is reason without  perception, experience, and wisdom? I know those are different things, but wouldn’t it be “perfect” if all those are fused together?

For two and a half years, I’ve always wondered if someone feels the way I do about these things. To be really honest, I really feel left out from my major, I don’t feel like I belong to this group. When faced with the stress of the empirical, I always turn to the arts; I draw, paint, listen to music, create something. Art is redemption(I used to be a painting major, FYI.) I don’t quite get why I have to study these things. Would it make me a better person if I memorize all the 100 scientific names of 100 different seashells, or enumerate the formulas and solutions in calculus? If yes, do all these things satiate our hunger for meaning? Personally, after all the effort I exerted in studying such things, in the end, I still feel empty.  I don’t intend to underestimate you scientific people, I’m just saying that I don’t quite get you yet.

“Man is all symmetry”– this line states it all.

There’s a portion in the essay, that quoted Plato. I believe that poetry is nearer to the truth rather than history. Applying philosophy, we say that what we are in search for is the absolute truth/cause. We know that poetry came from the purest of emotion and reason exemplified in a different way, and “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”. Unlike history, there are tons of events or accounts that are not included in history books, it is more prone to injustice and lies. History covers up the “dirt” behind the reasons of some events and proclaim those events as clean and beneficial to the society. There are so many things that history aren’t telling us. In knowing the truth, one must distance himself from the objective, the empirical, and move to the subjective in order to fully know and understand what is needed.

There is something we can see, but we cannot grasp; something we cannot see, but we can grasp.

We tend to overlook nature and what it has to offer, take it for granted.

I’d like to end this by quoting one of my favorite musicians, John Mayer. “We read all the books, but we can’t find the answers.”

i’m sorry if this sounded too vague! haha. There is just too many thoughts and emotions from this chapter. I couldn’t hold them all anymore.


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