Vision, The Now, and God

In Emerson’s “Experience,” he found it is quite prevalent to remove the definition of living life through routines. Instead of constantly worrying about the future, people need to live in the now, given our vision advocates only that (our eyes cannot see into the future). With routines, he or she spends adequate amount of time stressfully preparing for a certain kind of future, when the future can in no way be predicted. Emerson stresses that life is like being on a never-ending rollercoaster, with unexpected lopes and turns, where our eyes can only seen as far in the now/present. Emerson’s understanding of the “true” art of life is to “live amid surfaces, while skat[ing] well” (478). I found it interesting that Emerson chooses to incorporate skating in emphasizing how individuals should view their lives, because the idea of skating along life is not quite comforting. While skating, a person will find themselves either upon a thin or thick layer of ice (this ice being their life in moments) and there is no guaranteed of a solid surface! Ice, like life is constantly slippery, but as long as we adhere to our vision/ eyes to guide us…we should be successful.

                What is interesting is Emerson constant reference to God as being the only spirit that should make an impact within our lives.  My concern is if Emerson chose to work off the ideal of vision as being only what our eyes can see in the present, where does God fit within all this? Obviously we cannot see him, yet we should assume he is lurking around amongst the crowd. I support Emerson’s ideals about routines, and life needing to be lived in the moment (with the understanding that our vision only advocates this) but God is not in our vision (or I would assume he is not). I feel Emerson contradicted himself within the understanding of the “straightforward” vision when he chose to incorporate God within this piece.

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1 Response to Vision, The Now, and God

  1. Dominique says:


    I’d love to see you return to this essay and pick out the exact moments you were thinking of when you described Emerson’s “staightforward” understanding of vision. Emerson talks about “seeing” in this essay–yet in what context does he discuss it? Is he talking about “seeing” in multiple contexts at once? (See our list from class.)

    Also, see if you can explain the tension or contradiction you sense in this piece even more clearly. He’s certainly talking about contradictions: mortal temperment vs. divinity (475), objectivity and subjectivity (487), the original and the picture (488). What’s he saying about these contrasting states of being?

    You’re absolutely right that the experience of “skating on thin ice” provides little sense of security of reinforcement! Do you think that describes Emerson’s atttitude in the whole essay? (See the top of page 473 to understand the occassion that spurred his writing of this piece.)

    Thank you for this contribution!


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