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PaganAngel

What does this quote mean...?

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Okay, I have a 5-page essay for my Composition class tomorrow on this quote, but I need some help (meaning, I'm about 2 pages short). Do you guys have any input as to what this quote means?

[quote]Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson[/quote]

What I got out of it was that you have to stand firmly with your beliefs and not be swayed by the opinions of others (although that does sound somewhat close-minded). Do you guys have anything to add?

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[quote name='Charon']Isn't using other people's opinions and interpretations as your own work considered plagiarism?[/quote]

Not when the professor asks you to use past experience and the opinions of others, which she did.

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Well I'm glad you cleared that up.
Although, I do find it a little unusual that a professor would have you use other people's opinions without referencing them. (Unless of course you were planning to cite forum members?). Maybe I just overdosed on proper-ness.

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[QUOTE=Charon]Well I'm glad you cleared that up.
Although, I do find it a little unusual that a professor would have you use other people's opinions without referencing them. (Unless of course you were planning to cite forum members?). Maybe I just overdosed on proper-ness.[/QUOTE]

...the reason for this unusualness being that it's supposed to prove that many people can interpret the same thing differently. But I understand your concern. ^^

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[FONT=Century Gothic] [COLOR=DarkOrange]I believe the main idea is to value your own opinion and don't let the opinions of others affect it. Realize your own self worth and you will have much more opportunity for knowledge and personal growth.

I think Emerson was a non-conformist, i don't exactly remember. But that's what i got from it.


[/COLOR] [/FONT]

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Well, the easiest thing would be to write the essay about how the quote is Emerson's "opinion" on how people should live their lives, i.e. questioning everything, being individualistic, sticking to one's own "beliefs," and so on. This would seemingly be supported by the rest of the paragraph around the quote (all from the essay "Self-Reliance," which is short and worth a read):

[quote][SIZE=1]Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. I remember an answer which when quite young I was prompted to make to a valued adviser, who was wont to importune me with the dear old doctrines of the church. On my saying, What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions, if I live wholly from within? my friend suggested, ? "But these impulses may be from below, not from above." I replied, "They do not seem to me to be such; but if I am the Devil's child, I will live then from the Devil." No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it. A man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition, as if every thing were titular and ephemeral but he. I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions. Every decent and well-spoken individual affects and sways me more than is right. I ought to go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways.[/SIZE][/quote]There may be another way of reading this quote, of course, although it would probably stray from your teacher's intentions. Emerson says here, in one of the most famous quotes of American thinking: "Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string." Trust means to put faith in something - "faith" here not meaning just believing that something exists, but rather being [i]gripped[/i] and held by a power that demands our attention. For Emerson that power is I myself (it's no accident that he states, "God is here within"). "Trusting thyself" then means something like being gripped in one's own power. "The power which resides in [man] is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried." But eventually it may happen that we catch a glimpse of such a power. We realize our own potential, our "genius," our power as a productive and artistic being that can "new date and new create the whole." And such a glimpse may spur us on, or it may scare us away. It could be the devil, after all!

But do we UNDERSTAND this power, i.e. do we [i]see[/i] where it's coming from or know how it works at all? No, for Emerson this is impossible. We do not grip our own creative power, it grips us. Thus: "And now at last the highest truth on this subject remains unsaid; probably cannot be said; for all that we say is the far-off remembering of the intuition. That thought, by what I can now nearest approach to say it, is this. When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way... the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new."

The original quote, again, was:

[quote][SIZE=1]Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.[/SIZE][/quote]We should especially look at that last sentence. What does it mean to "absolve me to myself"? Absolve has the general sense of setting free or detaching. To be absolved into myself can then only mean being [i]released[/i] into myself, or in other words, released into the "grip" of my own power in such a way that that power is no longer something alien or terrifying ("the devil"), but is essentially what I already am. Philosophy and theology, at least, have a long history of understanding this idea as "freedom." Emerson thus asks us to free ourselves into our own nature, that is, into our creative power.

What does "you shall have the suffrage of the world" mean? Suffrage has the more familiar meaning of the ability to vote, but Emerson seems to be using it in an older sense. Suffrage here means lending support. Does the statement then say that the man who is "freed" into his own creativity will be "supported" by a community of adoring fans? Not as such, no: Emerson frankly doesn't give a damn about being popular. On support, Emerson says: "Let a man then know his worth, and keep things under his feet." On the world: "A true man belongs to no other time or place, but is the centre of things. Where he is, there is nature." To have the suffrage of the world, then, can't possibly mean to be popular. It has to mean BEING this "centre of things," and allowing the world and nature to rise up and support that center. For Emerson, the one who has been freed into its own power is the basis for measuring "you, and all men, and all events," all of which now orient around the power of the "true man" and establish him in history. The meaning of the first sentence of the quote ("Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind") should now be obvious as well. It's not just that Emerson wants us to be "individualistic" and so on - if nature itself is oriented around the power of man (power here meaning the same thing as integrity), then there is no value or "sacredness" to [I]anything[/I] except that which does the orienting.

This is a difficult quote, and good luck working on it in your essay. I hope I've helped a little, or at least confused things (and I hope I haven't posted this too late!).

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First, if it makes anyone feel any easier, I already finished the assignment before even reading any of these responses, but I'd still like to see what you all think. Call it enrichment if you will. Second...
[QUOTE=Fasteriskhead]What does "you shall have the suffrage of the world" mean? Suffrage has the more familiar meaning of the ability to vote, but Emerson seems to be using it in an older sense. Suffrage here means lending support. Does the statement then say that the man who is "freed" into his own creativity will be "supported" by a community of adoring fans? Not as such, no: Emerson frankly doesn't give a damn about being popular. On support, Emerson says: "Let a man then know his worth, and keep things under his feet." On the world: "A true man belongs to no other time or place, but is the centre of things. Where he is, there is nature." To have the suffrage of the world, then, can't possibly mean to be popular. It has to mean BEING this "centre of things," and allowing the world and nature to rise up and support that center. For Emerson, the one who has been freed into its own power is the basis for measuring "you, and all men, and all events," all of which now orient around the power of the "true man" and establish him in history. The meaning of the first sentence of the quote ("Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind") should now be obvious as well. It's not just that Emerson wants us to be "individualistic" and so on - if nature itself is oriented around the power of man (power here meaning the same thing as integrity), then there is no value or "sacredness" to [I]anything[/I] except that which does the orienting.
[/QUOTE]
Ah, thanks for this. I was interpreting that "suffrage" part as "popular", which felt really ironic--why would you need popularity if you've just "absolved you to yourself?" The first part of the quote implies self-sufficiency, so the "suffrage" didn't fit in. God, I hate this quote... if you look up the words integrity, suffrage, absolve, and sacred in the dictionary, they each have about 4 definitions apiece. The more I think, the more I wonder why the paper's [i]only[/i] five pages long.

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Man, reading a topic like this makes me very happy that I went to college for Engineering. :animesmil I hated learning about Transcendentalism (I think that's what it?s called) back in High School.

Hopefully you paper turned out ok. If you ever got any Math/Science questions though, I would be happy to help.

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