28 April 2010

Unsettling Yourself

I want to help. I really do. I don't mean to be preachy or self-righteous in presentation. I do feel that I'm on the right track in coming to terms with living on this earth. And, because of that, I want to share with you. I don't want to make you angry but I do want to challenge your assumptions. Now, a move that likely causes you to click away--an Emerson quote (sorry) from "Circles":

Do not set the least value on what I do, or the least discredit on what I do not, as if I pretended to settle any thing as true or false. I unsettle all things. No facts are to me sacred; none are profane; I simply experiment, an endless seeker, with no Past at my back.

Basically, this is my approach, at least over the last several years--to unsettle myself and peripherally, others that happen within my orbit.

I would like to keep quoting from "Circles", I know you don't want to read it in its entirety, but I don't want to try your patience. However, I do want to press on a bit--elsewhere, in Emerson's most "well-known" essay (Self-Reliance), he tells us that "Power ceases in the instant of repose; it resides in the moment of transition from a past to a new state, in the shooting of the gulf, in the darting to an aim." So, like a circle--forever spinning, rotating, expanding (you know, a la divinity, center nowhere circumference everywhere)--power cannot rest...cannot settle. That leads to stagnation.

Okay. Now, "Circles" goes on (bear with me!) and this immediately follows the "unsettling":

Yet this incessant movement and progression which all things partake could never become sensible to us but by contrast to some principle of fixture or stability in the soul. Whilst the eternal generation of circles proceeds, the eternal generator abides. That central life is somewhat superior to creation, superior to knowledge and thought, and contains all its circles. For ever it labors to create a life and thought as large and excellent as itself; but in vain; for that which is made instructs how to make a better.

(I might tack a bit on to that last phrase--that which is made instructs in its own destruction--what is making a better but tearing down the previous attempt?)

So, there IS a center (eternal generator) that keeps the lights on. Waldo doesn't call this "god" but likely this is his idea of the divine...the eternal generator of a "better" in our perception. But this is coming from within (from your center) not from some ephemeral ethereal other outside of you.

Okay, enough of that. What I'm trying to say is what you're thinking right now is likely not the best idea you've ever had (nor the worst)--and that you can do better than the staid and stagnant ideas and perceptions you've been given by your community, by your nation, by your parents, by your friends. Respect these things but know that there are OTHER ways to approach ideas and ways of living. Another circle can be drawn. Or as Emerson begins the essay:

Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens.


  1. This is an interesting post, which, of course, begs the question: in what ways are you unsettling yourself?

    I love the Emerson passages from Circles. This inner generator is fascinating, and I think it's much more powerful than we realize. It's easy to plow through our days blindly and unaware, as this is what we seem to be encouraged to do. Don't ask questions now because salvation is at the end?

    We have infinitely more capacity for understanding on a very basic level then most of us ever consider. There is truth in the silence of every breath.

  2. The essay ends this way, Sair: "The one thing which we seek with insatiable desire is to forget ourselves, to be surprised out of our propriety, to lose our sempiternal memory, and to do something without knowing how or why; in short, to draw a new circle. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. The way of life is wonderful: it is by abandonment."

    Unsettling and abandon--giving the entrenched "me" up for the universal "I" (eye).

  3. I didn't really answer...but I think that all things truly new (reading in moral philosophy/ethics, Animal Rights; meeting new people, trying new strategies for living) work to unsettle the calcified self we receive from out prison-house of social and familial stratification.